Video Game Review: Deadlight (Xbox Live Arcade)

In a market that’s flooded with zombie and post apocalyptic media, there are a number of experiences that are enjoyable and an even larger number that aren’t. Deadlight_600x200

Deadlight, by Tequila Works for the Xbox Live Arcade, is one of those enjoyable experiences. At 1,200 Microsoft Points, you get about four hours worth of story for a single play through on normal difficulty. That number doubles for completionists and achievement hunters who finish the game on the hardest difficulty and gather every collectible.

Deadlight stars Randall Wayne, an aging park ranger who sets out to find his family in the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse. By the end, Randall becomes a fairly well developed character with a satisfying conclusion and plot twist akin to Stephen King. His co-stars however are lacking on both levels of depth and voice acting. This lack of deep supporting roles does not however detract much from the game considering its length and scope. While I liked the Rat Man, I frequently had difficulty hearing his lines over the environmental ambiance. I strongly recommend that subtitles be enabled while playing.

Gameplay is intercut with graphic novel style cinematics that advance the story and develops the characters. These are short pauses to gameplay which doesn’t disrupt the pacing as can often occur. It’s obvious from these animatics that the majority of resources were spent elsewhere. This is not a criticism.  Where the cinematics and supporting character voice acting is lacking however, the rest of Deadlight shines. I don’t need Michael Bay directed cinematics in my games if the gameplay is tight and I appreciate the example Deadlight sets for balancing game development resources.

Deadlight is a fairly polished platforming experience. It is an enjoyable sidescroller that includes elements you’d expect in any platformer, along with mechanics that have become ubiquitous with zombie games such as shotguns and fireman’s axes. This experience is wrapped up in an aesthetically commendable package. While many recent platformers have aired on the side of minimalist or highly stylized, Deadlight makes great use of the Unreal engine for a lightly stylistic-realist approach; Deadlight is a pretty game.

Progress is saved using an automatic checkpoint system after nearly every obstacle. This, in conjunction with a limited stamina supply and even smaller health pool, make for a well balanced system of trial and error while never becoming aggravating. The player is encouraged to try different methods for overcoming obstacles because the game is challenging enough to require it and yet not punishing enough to discourage it. In addition, Deadlight makes great use of Xbox Live’s Achievement system. While I am not an advocate for free achievements, neither do I believe they should be reserved only for the hardcore gamer. Deadlight includes a number of achievements, many of them often awarded by accident.  As an occasionally casual gamer, I appreciate the feeling of being rewarded for my time and the frequency of achievement awards in Deadlight tickles that nerve to satisfaction.

Deadlight hits a lot of the right notes. It’s a solid platformer with a healthy dose of zombie action, pleasing visuals, and rewards you for enjoying the experience.  To interested players, I recommend scouting this game out on the PC from the Steam store as it frequently goes on sale for a fraction of the cost from the Xbox Live Arcade.  With the exception of some very minor negative observations, Deadlight is a great way to take a break from the larger epic gaming sagas of the day and enjoy a short stint elsewhere.

Pros

  • Visual quality
  • Polished platforming-zombie experience
  • Satisfying main character arc
  • Numerous achievements

Cons 

  • Subtitles necessary for occasionally poor audio mixing
  • Overpriced within the Xbox ecosystem

Specifications
Price: 1,200 Microsoft Points
Platform: Xbox Live Arcade
Demo Available: Yes

Links
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deadlight
Metacritic: http://www.metacritic.com/game/xbox-360/deadlight
Official Site: http://www.deadlightgame.com/

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