The Average Gamer

Deadlight Review (XBLA)

In a lightweight Summer of Arcade (one of Microsoft’s rather pointless taglines for already-regular XBLA releases), along comes Deadlight to add some horror to the balance. It couldn’t be more appropriately named, as you’ll soon see….

Deadlight is a left to right 2D/3D platform puzzler, much like recent releases Limbo and Shadow Complex. Couple that with a zombie apocalypse setting and you get the idea.

The goal in Deadlight is to guide ‘Wayne’, who has been separated from his family and friends, to a fabled ‘Safe Point’ referenced throughout. For the most part Deadlight is standard platforming; running left to right, climbing ledges, avoiding zombies (known as ‘Shadows’ here), interspersed with puzzle elements, such as crate moving, turn generators on, evading switch-activated traps, and so forth.

These puzzle elements get you thinking fast, as Shadows are usually hot on your tail. Most solutions for getting out of each room are fairly simple and obvious, so the panic-induced conditions are certainly a plus point. Having to manically open doors when being chased, sometimes tripping on unseen obstacles along the way adds to the panic brilliantly. But these can be few and far between, with most main puzzles areas being uninhabited, leaving you with your own frustration due to the minute precision required for a lot of them. I lost count how many times I died and had to reload, even though I knew exactly what was required.

Although the majority of Wayne’s time is spent running, jumping and escaping rooms and traps, there are also tools to defend him, such as a fire-fighter’s axe, handgun, etc. If the axe is being used, each swing will reduce Wayne’s stamina meter, with rest the only way of recovering it.

A similar scenario arises with a gun; bullets are extremely limited, so the chances are if you are cornered, you will probably die. All you can do is reload the checkpoint and try again. Once again its panic-induced moments like this that does give Deadlight some success, although it can border on the annoying, having to replay sections several times.

Unfortunately, Deadlight lets itself down with the very atmosphere that is built around its function. The cutscenes, told in animated stills, are mostly boring and flat to watch. The dialogue is very sub-standard, a very far cry away from Telltale Games’ brilliant The Walking Dead series and the voice acting is very predictable and very cliché at times.

Take said scenario: a bus is on fire, halting Wayne’s path. “I’m going to have put that fire out” he says, in his deep, movie trailer-esque voice. This comes quite a way into the game, and the player will have no doubt already deduced this; such is the nature of thinking required in Deadlight. Thanks for that. As the game wore on, I seemed to withdraw from the scenario Wayne was in, mostly because of his ineptitude at jumping.

Deadlight is not a bad game. But a lot of what it is trying to achieve gets lost in amongst its tedious dialogue, flat storytelling, and those odd frustrating moments that require the most precise of jumps just to progress. There are moments that do work: running from place to place, barging through weak doors (which looks cool), navigating room after room, building after building to escape, all done at breakneck pace. It’s just ‘dead light’ on atmosphere.

I’ll get my coat.

Deadlight is out now on XBLA

Curious about the verdict? Read our review policy.