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For me Deadlight was a mixed bag. There were elements of the game that I loved, while the rest was simply frustrating. Deadlight is simply a stepping stone. A game that if studied the industry and especially Tequila Works can use to make a much better experience. There are three aspects to the game — some good some bad. By dividing them up we can see the potential that games like Deadlight can achieve.
Presentation and side-scrolling
Tequila Works out did themselves with the post-zombie-apocalypse Seattle. They made a crumbling ruined city into something beautiful. All the environments — except for the sewer section — were fantastic. It is the only part of the game that sells the experience. Sadly the sewers take you away from the gorgeous backdrops of Seattle, and puts you into a cramped and aggravating environment.
Personally I would love to see more side-scrolling games on the market. Just because technology has passed into the 3D realm doesn't mean video games have to stay there. Deadlight, like Shadow Complex and Limbo before it; reminds us that this style of gameplay can still work.
The main issue when it comes to the presentation is the story. It is pretty cliche for a zombie apocalypse story. Randall Wayne is looking for his family, and he believes that he can find them in Seattle. During his journey he finds out that the "safe point" is actually a trap. Randall learns that the living is more dangerous than the dead. Sounds familiar right? I could excuse the cliche story if I was able to enjoy playing the game. Sadly this isn't possible in Deadlight, even the gameplay is lacking.
Here is the largest issue with Deadlight — the platforming was for the most part, broken. Jumping, climbing, and running worked fine when separated from each other. However, when two or more of these mechanics were mixed into solving an obstacle, the game would become frustrating. The sewer levels are the prime example. They are filled with extremely frustrating obstacles. You can only get a glimpse of what the puzzles and obstacles were suppose to be, but in reality they are nothing more than frustrating.
The final level of the game was by far the best portion. All aspects of the game are stringed together to a make smooth and entertaining gameplay. It is a shame that the best part of the game lasts only a few minutes. It shouldn't have taken that long to get to the bright spot. Hopefully, next time they will allow the player to use all the mechanics of the game in fun ways earlier on in the story.
The combat is also a mixed bag. The melee attacks which come from a discovered fire axe is atrocious. There is no accuracy with your swings, and at times can actually miss a zombie even though you are directly in front of them. What feels off is the hit detection on the zombies. Perhaps if the hits registered more accurately this wouldn't be a problem anymore.
What saves the melee combat is the shooting mechanics. The shooting is smooth and accurate and is on par with Shadow Complex. What makes the shooting even more interesting is the loading. The trick in surviving a massive zombie attack is being able to reload your six-shooter quickly. If you can't you too will join the legions of the dead.
It is understandable that the game is meant to be about survival, and not about killing zombies. With such smooth mechanics Tequila Works should have added extra challenges and trials where you have to shoot your way out of situations.
I don't want to call Deadlight a failure, but the game isn't a success either. This zombie saga is more like a learning experience. Tequila Works can learn a lot from Deadlight. They nailed the zombie apocalypse atmosphere right on the head. Let's hope that they make a spiritual successor to Deadlight. One that gives us more of the final moments of the game. Where all the platforming, combat, and story will fuse well together.
And if there is anything else that we can take away from Deadlight is that side-scrollers are not dead, and can still be tastefully done. While Deadlight isn't the best side-scroller this generation, it is by far the most beautiful. Hopefully Tequila Works will run with that.