Is there such a thing as a non-zombie apocalypse?
Microsoft's Summer of Arcade has produced some amazing games, notably Limbo from Playdead Studios launched as a Summer of Arcade headliner two years ago. The title put the promotion block on the map and let gamers know that there were downloadable games to get excited about in the heat of summer.
Tequila Works and Microsoft have tried to recapture that with Deadlight, but in doing so they've managed to belie some of what made Limbo so fantastic. Can Deadlight stand up against the similarities it shares with its predecessor or have these brains already been eaten?
Deadlight sets players down in the middle of a zombie apocalypse. The world has fallen to yet another brain-eating epidemic and your objective is to make it through the hordes to meet up with your friends and family. You play as Randall Wayne, a middle aged survivor hoping to reconnect with his family.
While the premise manages to make a few changes, Deadlight's gameplay is eerily similar to Limbo. You'll have to push blocks and leap from platform to platform in order to make it past the zombies lining the streets and infesting the buildings.
In one section, a pack of zombies stood between me and the exit. In Limbo, players would trigger the enemy NPCs before running away and forcing the enemies into traps. Deadlight arms you with the ability to whistle for the zombies. As they charge you, you can trigger traps to dispatch them.
In this particular sequence, Randall found himself in a garage. As the zombies ran under a suspended car, I could trigger a crash that ended in a bloody splash. Other areas of the game have players pushing blocks to complete jumping puzzles.
The similarities between Limbo and Deadlight don't end there. The stark visual style, where Randall is almost always covered in shadow and a zombie's eyes glitter like bright diamonds, certainly calls back to Playdead's masterwork as well.
As a Limbo clone, Deadlight is passable. It lacks all the originality and spark, but makes up for it with an imitation of Playdead's compelling gameplay, plus a few new twists—like the axe and pistol.
Beyond that, it's difficult to consider Deadlight as anything else. I'd like to think we've all played enough zombie-survival games. This one is a 2D platformer, but the same-ish gameplay takes away from the originality of that combination.
The story and characters lack a compelling element too, with hand-drawn cut-scenes that are highly stylized but very messy as well. Environments are deep and detailed, but once again wasted. You can't exactly explore into the background or foreground in a 2D platformer, can you?
Deadlight has all the style, substance, and gameplay you could want, with none of the originality you need. The word "cliché" never left my mind, even for an instant. If you loved Limbo and want to recreate that experience, you could spend $15 on this, or you could just play the game you already own and have a much better time.