Deadlight is dead dull

Having enjoyed a short yet compelling adventure in Brothers and remembering favourable reviews for Deadlight, I was keen to give this ago.

My initial impressions after booting up weren’t great. The cut scene just didn’t captivate me and felt too cheesy, like a sub-par Sin City. Once presented with a side scrolling game I was intrigued, although having mixed feelings over the dark art style. It was nicely done but then I felt like I’ve seen it all before. Later I did see some nice visual touches such as mud when walking through water and some great looking backdrops.

My main beef with the visuals was that there was a lack of clarity at times, meaning that I couldn’t see my path or items. An example of this would be a passage that you need to crouch through may be dark in amongst many other dark objects and scenery – they have a lot of silhouettes going on! Another example would be pickups being a barely noticeable object along your path, which you may say is fair enough for extras but a hidden object misses the point when a very visual “press X now” indicator flashes up. Don’t get me wrong, the silhouette theme can look cool, just sometimes it is detrimental.

Similarly I found issues with depth. It doesn’t make sense having interesting looking objects and easy paths in the background when your path has you climbing and hauling stuff. I can see a door over there – surely I’d go that way right? More annoying was when there was a lack of clarity in whether an object is in the background that looked to be in the foreground. Not sure how best to explain, but say you have a fence in a 2D side on game going from the distance towards the screen (i.e. the third dimension you can’t move in). Surely you wouldn’t have a slim gap in the fence right? Surely you wouldn’t have an object right in front or behind the player that they don’t collide with right? After all we’re 2D so surely anything foreground/background is set very clearly foreground & background right? WRONG.

(I died once when looking to climb on the railing of the fire escape that I was to jump from, except my character walked through a gap)

Another gameplay related visual issue was with the animations and detecting user intentions. For example jumping vertically to grab a ladder seemed to require you to be pretty much perfectly aligned with the ladder when most games would allow a bit more leeway. Having your character jumping right in front of a ladder and not grab on looks silly and breaks immersion.

Similarly when climbing up a wall you need to press A to climb up, however from playing so many similar games I’ve gotten used to this being a natural movement. Given that this is a game about constant movement, I’d expect that if I jumped to the right and caught the edge of the ledge, still holding the stick to the right would climb up. I wouldn’t want to have that half second pause of being idle.

Some of the animations were very slow as well, which can be very frustrating. Whilst in reality I know that I couldn’t lean down, pick up a box, open it and assess the contents within a second, this is a game. Pickups can be a very quick action and shouldn’t impede you at all. Everything needs to be very prompt and quick. Don’t take time to dust yourself down after a fall – get back up as quickly as you can without making the animation look shit. I’d rather a slightly abnormal time to stand up than you know, dying.

These aren’t major issues normally but game seems to be focused about smooth movement as you clamber your way to safety to interruptions and fiddly controls just broke all of that for me. This is very similar to my beef with Vector HD.

On the subject of immersion, the audio disappointed. It seemed pretty dull to be honest and was too quiet. I found the game lacked atmosphere and had no tension. More prominent background music and the usual zombie “eurghhhhh” would have helped. Instead the game felt a little, well empty.

There were a few cool moments that I’ve encountered so far (a third of the way through after one session). These were when I had to properly leg it to get through the level, for example after a car alarm. The audio still lacked the punch to deliver true intensity and the stuttering movements meant that the best parts weren’t phenomenal, but they were good. Sadly short too.

I really hope that I get to experience more of this! I’m sure that I’ll complete the game and hopefully it will improve, but I’m not overly confident to be honest.

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