Having grown up with the Atari 2600 and NES, I can appreciate how 2D platformers have evolved over the course of time. “Deadlight” can be described as 2.5D side-scroller, but I would be doing the game an injustice if I left it at that. What makes this particular game stand out above the rest? Before we begin answering that question, I’d like to quickly thank Térence Mosca for sending me a free review copy.
For those of you who weren’t a child of the 80’s, 2D side-scrollers task the player with moving through the environment by going up, down, left, or right, as seen in games like Super Mario Bros., Mega Man, and Contra. 2.5D side-scrollers take it a bit further and introduce 3D effects, giving you the bells and whistles of a modern game while keeping with the roots of the 80’s era. I hope you’re taking notes, there will be a quiz later…
“Deadlight” starts you off at the main menu, where you’ll be able to continue at your last save point, select a scene you’ve previously been to, check out leaderboards, view achievements, recap Randall’s memories, and adjust the game’s options. There aren’t user profiles to create new games, but you can warp back to previous scenes to replay the earlier levels should you wish to. The options menu allows you to rebind your keyboard keys, sound options, and your other usual visual effects.
The controls are a mixed bag. I don’t own an Xbox 360 controller so I was forced to play using the keyboard. For the record, the game IS playable with a keyboard, but I suspect that a controller would be much easier to use. There are certain “Ninja Gaiden” moments I call them, where wall jumping is necessary to pass hazardous areas. This can be difficult depending on your keyboard setup, though I found that assigning my “up arrow” key to jump saved me from having to strain to reach the space bar. I simply assigned the up movement to the “space bar” as I rarely used it.
The game quickly sets the scene, letting you know that you’re a distraught Randall Wayne who is desperately trying to find his wife and daughter amongst the chaos that comes with the zombie apocalypse (the game calls them shadows). You’re introduced to the control scheme in a logical manner, giving you the general idea on how to navigate and interact with objects. You don’t start with any weapons and quickly learn that you’ll have to avoid the shadows using the environment and a little cunning.
Randall has three life points that deplete one at a time when he is attacked by shadows or drops from a far distance. He also has a stamina bar that depletes when he attacks with a melee weapon (an axe, for example) or exerts himself by climbing walls and holding onto ledges. You’ll find health packs and ammo scattered about for the guns you’ll find along the way, though dying simply takes you back to the last save point automatically at full health. I’m glad there are unlimited continues, as I found myself dying a lot when attempting to get used to the control schemes as they were introduced. You won’t be able to save manually, but the game saves very often…usually when you enter a new room or area.
In terms of “oh crap” moments, there’s plenty of times where I paused before entering an area for fear of something jumping out at me. The game is very thematic and beautiful to look at. I often stopped to smell the roses along the way, just to take in the atmosphere that the game was presenting me with. I wasn’t a fan of the sewers and underground, but I really appreciated the detail that went into the buildings, objects, and weather effects that occurred above ground.
The story is fairly interesting. While the story of a father looking for their wife and child has been done before, a parent like myself won’t be able to resist helping the protagonist anyway. I won’t spoil the storyline, but you’ll be moving from scene to scene, facing both the shadows and a rogue human militia group called “The New Law.” I admit, I was drawn in to the story and became invested in finding out what happened next. An hour or two went by before I knew it and I didn’t want to put the “controls down” for dinner.
Combat is fairly simple, but no less dangerous. You’ll have nothing in the beginning of the game to defend yourself with but will later come upon weapons like an axe and a pistol. Even with the axe, it can be difficult to take down a single foe as your stamina bar will deplete very quickly, leaving you vulnerable. It’s quickly determined that cunning and running are the better parts of valor. In between staving off the advances of the undead, you’ll often be presented with puzzles that you’ll have to solve to advance to the next area. One area might involve wall jumping to get to the top of a building while another might challenge you to dangle hand over hand above live, electric cables.
While “Deadlight” does bear a familiar “zombie apocalypse” theme, the game introduces three-dimensional effects that turn a two-dimensional side-scroller into one, fantastic thrill-ride that will please zombie fans for some time to come. The story will keep you intrigued and the visuals will keep you captivated as you jump, shoot, and run from screen to screen. I have a feeling that retro gamers like myself will appreciate the effort that went into keeping things “old school”…I know I did. If you’re into platformers at all, then you can’t go wrong in giving “Deadlight” a try.
Final Verdict: 7/10
You can purchase the game on Steam here:
You can see video play sessions here: