Zombie games have been an integral part of the videogame landscape for decades, and likely will be for years to come.
First person shooters, Action-adventures and RPG’s have all had the zombie treatment over the years, but what about the humble platformer? This is where Tequila Works steps forward for its day in the sun.
Deadlight, the first game from Tequila Works, casts you in the role of Randall Wayne, a park ranger, on a crusade through the streets of Seattle in search of his wife and daughter.
Set in an alternate version of 1986, with the cold war still in full swing, your world is shattered when your small Canadian town of Hope is attacked by “shadows”, the lumbering flesh eating creatures that have swept across the globe.
Split off from your family you and your fellow ranger, Ben Parker, venture to the nearest safe zone in Seattle, picking up stragglers along the way, in the hope that your family will also have made their way there. After you are separated from your group of survivors, you must search the city and reach the safe zone, in the hope you will once again be reunited with your loved ones.
Deadlight from the outset shows you a visceral and visually stunning portrayal of post-apocalyptic Seattle, with the walking dead constantly roaming the streets around the decaying shells of once gleaming towers of glass, steel and concrete. This in and about itself, is in stark contrast to the actual game environment, which is in a constant state of twilight, with only the occasional light source to pierce the gloom.
Even with this permanent gloom on the play area, the character models and animations are crisp and clean which helps engross you in the story unfolding in front of you.
Remove the zombie threat, and the astounding graphics from Deadlight, and you are left with a stunning action-platformer, which in some respects, reminded me firmly of the old classics, like Another World and Flashback.
Just like those superlative games, Deadlight will punish you for your mistakes, and it will most likely happen frequently. Thankfully, the checkpoint system in the game is exceptionally well placed, only pushing you back to the start of the previous screen, or the start of a set-piece, and never causing you to lose more than a few minutes worth of progress. In this respect, perseverance is a must for this game, as some of the sections can become quite frustrating as you attempt to traverse the environment or deduce the next puzzle.
As a 2D platformer, it tends to lean towards the linear path, with off the path investigation reduced to a minimum, only in an effort to find one of the many collectables in the game. Using the linearity to their advantage, the designers use this single minded approach to progress the story through Randalls monologues or unleashing a stunning set piece, of which there are many.
During these set pieces, their influence from cinema is evident, with the long lingering slow motion action shot, or the close pan of the camera during tense sections timed to perfection.
Combat in Deadlight has only two rules: Fight or Flight. Sometimes it will best benefit you to go headlong into the enemy with your axe or your firearms but this is seldom. Ammo in this game is scarce, as is your energy bar required to sprint, hang off ledges and swing your axe, and on numerous occasions during the game, your weapons will be removed altogether.
Most of the time, you will have to choose to outsmart or outrun the shadows.
The shadows display all the trademarks of the Romero zombie. Slow, shuffling and stupid. Calling to them from the other side of a pit will see them tumble idiotically into the gaping hole between you and them, as they vainly claw at the air in an attempt to get at the fresh meat making so much noise. Other times, shouting at them while out of reach, will cause them all to gather below you, allowing you to leap easily over their heads and sprint for the next point of safety.
At other times though, calling out, will actually draw more enemies from the background, who will come shambling into the foreground, investigating the noise you made.
The mechanics of the combat work well. Your firearms are aimed using the Right Stick, and fire upon a press of the Right Trigger. Melee combat on the other hand is conducted with the B Button. Each tap swings your axe, and each subsequent swing feels more and more sluggish as your energy dwindles to the point where your screen shakes and turns grey, as your energy is depleted and you leave yourself open to enemy attacks.
The drawbacks of this game are few, but obvious. At around 2-3 hours in, there is not a lot of bang for your buck, and being story driven it doesn’t lend itself to multiple replays. The collectibles and leaderboard may entice you back for a thorough and a fast play-through but beyond that there is no real benefits to playing through it again.
The dialogue and voice acting are spotty in places, making some of the voice work sound forced and lack conviction at occasions throughout the game, which breaks the immersion and spoils the pace of the plot.
With all said and done, this is a fantastic platformer, with a gritty and interesting story to tell, and I would be remiss if I didn’t recommend it on those grounds.
MLG Rating: 8/10 Platform: Xbox 360 Release Date: 01/08/2012
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a digital copy of Deadlight by the promoter for review purposes. The title was reviewed over the course of two days on an Xbox 360. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.