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Deadlight
As some of you may have seen at one point, the power was out at my place due to a strong storm that hit. Tornados, flash floods, cats living with dogs in harmony, that sort of thing. This took time away from two of the Xbox Summer of Arcade titles, and given my current living arrangements, that time is very precious now. At this point I’ve taken a break from the other title, and have been working on the one that many of you, and those on my Xbox account friend list according to the flood of messages I received, are anxiously awaiting to hit: Deadlight. It drops on the Marketplace Wednesday, August 1st, and I don’t know if I will have a full blown review available prior to when it becomes available for purchase given that I’m nearing the end of part two now, so I figured I’d take some time to talk about this title real quick.

First of all, this game does deal with zombies and the end of the world. However, from what I’ve played so far, you could replace the zombies with anything and it wouldn’t make much of a difference to the story line. This whole thing, so far, is just your basic survival horror storyline: You play as a character in the zombie apocalypse, and you’re seperated from your friends. You need to reconnect with them at the “Safe Point” but they’re going by vehicle and you’re on foot. The army is around, and they eventually seem to become the main point of the plot aside some various memories you witness and participate in. You do get weaponry, including a fireman’s axe, a pistol, and even a slingshot for when you get rescued from an attack and brought into the Rat’s sewer maze, who is a man who sounds suspiciously like Tommy Chong. As you go on you collect information from certain corpses or wall grafitti, as well as lost pages from your own journal that help to fill in the blanks, though I can’t comment on that last part as I haven’t read any I collected yet, nor do I have them all.

Deadlight definitely looks like it’s in the vein of the modern 2.5 side scrolling platform titles, but it isn’t. What this game is can be explained as early Prince of Persia titles (eight and sixteen bit consoles, PC, etc.) meets Limbo thanks to the shading effects used on your character and the zombies. It’s pretty simple, and for the first chapter you can just plow right through it if you’re not too busy looking around for the collectables. However, chapter two really amped up the difficulty in many unfair ways. But, the puzzles are all really simple, and more times than not you’ll end up thinking in overly complex manners to solve them, which has been my greatest downfall so far, especially when dealing with Rat’s maze. Most of the time I wind up overlooking something I have to hit with the slingshot to either move a crank or cause a platform to rise up, as I’m thinking there’s a larger, intricate solution to the puzzle when one simply doesn’t exist.

I’m liking the lack of music to this title though. Much like with Limbo it helps establish a desolate atmosphere for your character. The sound effects, however, are not the must engaging, and the zombies just are not too creepy. Thankfully, these are the slow shambling Romero ones and not the modern impossible-by-all-physics versions that can run. Another plus happens to be the controls, which does help when you get cornered by these things, or need to be close enough that you won’t get hurt and sprint away. Solving puzzles also becomes easy as most controls are simple enough to remember, though sometimes you may very well forget what does what after a longer break considering how rarely used the rolling maneuver is, as well as the pushing or pulling of objects to stand on to reach higher pathways. The addition of a stamina meter really keeps me on my toes as well, though I nearly died once not paying attention to it while calling for the zombies to come towards me as I was dangling from an open window. For the most part, they are pretty tight and respond well, though rolling becomes a huge issue for me. Sometimtes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. I’m not sure still if it’s something I’m doing wrong or not, but it made part of the Rat’s maze incredibly hard for me, and if I had to hear the lead character say “More of these secret symbols” one more time I was going to chuck my controller in disgust.

At this point, the game says I put in about two and a half, three hours worth of play time over the first two chapters, but given how many times I died, it’s another hour and a half more than that. It’s clear Deadlight is going to be a pretty quick game, and outside of going back for the journal entries and missed discoveries/corpses, I can’t see myself playing this again for another time through at any point. It’s not that the game is bad, it’s that the whole game is built up as puzzle solving and story telling. Once you solve the puzzles you’ll know how to handle them next time, so if you want to tackle a speed run for the leaderboards, chances are that aspect of fun will be phased out. The same goes for the story. It started out pretty simple, but now things are twisting around, but it’s a plot any Horror or zombie fan will see coming a mile away. There are additional mini handheld games you can play when you collect them in the game. These are those old Tiger Electronics handhelds that were black dots over a steady background image that came out before the GameBoy did. There are three, but the only one I unlocked right now is a Rock Band knock-off that I tried, and wasn’t too impressed by other than bringing back some nostalgia I haven’t felt in ages.

Is Deadlight shaping up to be a good game? Well, I honestly can’t comment yet. Am I enjoying my time with it? Yes, I definitely am. But, the main concern becomes whether or not I’ll care to play it again once I beat it and wrap up all the achievements. The best thing I can say right now is that, if you’re honestly considering buying it, grab the demo first. Chances are good whatever they put up there for you to try this game out with is going to be a pretty fair representation of the title as a whole.

Article based on digital review material provided by Microsoft Game Studios.