Reviews

Lumbarjack – Zed’s Deadlight, baby, Zed’s Deadlight

Another month has passed and another games bundle has managed to win a place in this ever-growing list of games called my Steam Library. Fucking Amazon is getting in on the action as well now, and this particular bundle was too cheap to pass up.

Deadlight is yet another fucking zombie game – in an industry completely saturated with zombie games, is it worth the time?

In Deadlight you play the role of Randall Wayne, former park ranger, now full time survivor. It’s 1986 and all is not right with the world. A plague has spread across the globe, killing most of the human population and turning their corpses into… well, corpses that really like the taste of warm human flesh. Randall has been at this surviving thing for a while now – he’s tired and jaded from what he’s seen on his travels. He’s made his way to Seattle with a small group of survivor’s he’s met along the way. Their goal seems very simple; make it to a safe zone that supposedly exists in Seattle, where Randall believes his family have made their way to.

The story is fairly generic as far as zombie apocalypses go, and is explained through cut scenes made up of assembled hand-drawn images with voice over dialogue. The voice acting ranges from bad to intolerable, sounding like actors standing in a booth reading lines, making little attempt to convince us they aren’t simply actors standing in a booth reading lines.

Gameplay-wise, Deadlight is a 2.5D puzzle-platformer – it’s built in a 3D engine, but is played from a 2D perspective, which sets it apart and gives it some charm. Objects in the foreground can be directly interacted with, while objects and enemies in the background can move forward and interact with the foreground. For example, when entering an area, you may find merely a few zombies blocking your path, but if Randall makes too much noise, you’ll see that the zombies in the background will be very happy to join their brethren.

In a slight twist to the formula, the game inclines toward players avoiding the zombies rather than dealing with them directly. Jumping between rooftops keeps you out of harm’s way, but if you want to be Macho Man Randall Savage, you’ll find yourself very susceptible to attack; by the end of the game you can only take a grand total of four hits before succumbing to that endless sleep… Or y’know, you can go back to the last checkpoint.

Combat in Deadlight is in place for disposing of the odd zombie that blocks your path, or to give yourself enough breathing room to complete a given puzzle before moving on. The first weapon you get is a fire axe which you use both as a weapon and as a tool for breaking through the odd locked door or barricade. Swinging the fire axe drains your stamina, making you slower and more likely to be attacked. Zombies have the nasty habit of grappling with you to take a bite, leaving you vulnerable to attack by any other lurchers nearby, meaning being picky with your engagements is key to success.

You’ll get a fair way through the game before you find your first gun – a simple revolver. The gunplay is a little awkward, and if that was intentional I applaud them. No one can pick up a gun and expect to be an instant dead-eye, and from the dialogue of the tutorial, Randall is no gunslinger. Ammo is also quite scarce throughout, and you have to manually load each individual bullet. I found this to be a very nice touch, giving the character a much more powerful weapon, without turning the game into a shooter.

I mentioned this was a puzzle-platformer earlier, didn’t I? In the early game, the puzzles are simply a case of checking what you can interact with and assembling a route to the exit. Later puzzles involve wall-jumps, running jumps or navigating puzzles within a time limit; all standard fare. Then we come to the puzzles I had gripes with – puzzles that rely on trial-and-error, where error equals death.
In the late game there are a few puzzles that employ the use of skill, trial-and-error and time limits. Indeed, in one instance not only was I required to use all of the above methods, but also needed a little luck to get past a buggy piece of puzzle.

I would like to say that was the only case of technical issues I had with Deadlight, but I’d be lying. From the first time I started playing, right on through to the end I experienced audio drop-out during the cut scenes, random frame rate drop, the game freezing up for minutes at a time while trying to pause, and even a straight-up crash to desktop.

Despite the technical issues and a story that is uninspired at best, there’s something to Deadlight. The gameplay for the most part is solid, and the controls are comprehensible. I found the combat to be just awkward enough to provide a challenge, whilst remaining satisfying, and though the puzzles won’t test the limits of your mind, they at least help keep things interesting. While I don’t think Deadlight is worth full price, there are worse ways to spend 6 hours.

Recommendations:

  • Gamepad
  • If you’re looking to make the most out of this game, I suggest having a look in the Extras portion of the main menu and having a look at Randall’s Diary. While it’s clear that Tequila could have provided better English localisation, the diary provides perhaps a better piece of fiction to read than most of what you’ll have to listen to in the game itself.
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