Monday, July 30, 2012

'Deadlight': Side-scroller Zombie Video Game

"Deadlight" by Tequila Works is a 2-D side-scroller survival horror video game for XBOX360.

It's 1986.The world has fallen to a zombie apocalypse.Can Canadian forest ranger Randall Wayne make his way through zombie infested Seattle, WA and find his missing wife and daughter?

At first glance, "Deadlight" seems to borrow it's character shadow aesthetics from "Limbo" and uses a lot of the same types of puzzles found in the side-scroller as well.


One of the themes of  "Deadlight" revolves around the Everyman character Randall Wayne's struggle with self identity and overcoming his own fears and problems. In a sense, "Deadlight" is as much a character study as it is a zombie side-scroller.

The gray-scale character design and hyper-realism of the video game creates a great atmosphere for psychological horror. The emphasis on the psychological aspects can even be seen in the cover art, which is a Rorschach painting. Rorschach tests, also known as ink blot tests, were used in psychology as means to see how people think. The images are abstract, but a person's mind will create a design out of them. 

Here's a few of the Rorschach paintings from "Deadlight." 

Like many side-scroller video games that were popular in the 1980's, such as Prince of Persia, there is plenty of puzzle solving and exploration to be done. However, unlike most 80's video games,"Deadlight" was written with an emphasis on story telling, which is done with comic book panel cut-scenes and collecting pages of Randall's diary.

As you can see from the above diary entry, the zombies in "Deadlight" are called Shadows. An apt name if I say so myself, as it alludes to two things; one that the reanimated dead are shadows of their former selves, and two, that the people and zombies during game play look like shadows. The animated silhouettes of the walking dead provide a stark contrast to many other interpretations of zombies.

Initial reviews of "Deadlight" approve of the artistic style of the game, but some found the puzzles and survival horror aspects of the game to be aggravating. For instance, The Guardian reviewer hated the complex puzzle solving and the fact that weapons are scarce and only used to get Randall out of dire straights.  Gaming Age   and IGN gave positive reactions to the game mechanics and liked the beautiful background images that contributed to the game's dread inducing atmosphere. 
Seattle is portrayed with a stark realism, and the beauty of the backgrounds serves to highlight and emphasize the fact that the city is now in ruins.  

While "Deadlight" does not seem to cover any more ground as far as a zombie apocalypse storyline goes, it does deliver the story in an interesting and unique way. At it's heart, "Deadlight" is true to the survival horror genre. It takes place during the zombie apocalypse, where guns, ammo and weapons should be scarce. It's a part of the genre tropes and adds to the overall atmosphere of dread and helplessness that someone would feel if they had to live through such a horrific event. 

"Deadlight" is currently only going to be for XBOX360. It will be available on XBOX Live Arcade August 1, 2012 and can be purchased for 1200 Microsoft Points ($15.00).

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