What memories do our souls repress? Memories that linger in the back of our minds like a sliver of anguish that becomes the cross that our souls must bear. This is a brutal reality of Tequila Work's latest Xbox Live Arcade hit, Deadlight. If you are unfamiliar with Tequila Works, it is a team which brings together amazing talent from other companies such as: Blizzard, MercurySteam, Sony, Triumph Studios and more. This team has toiled extensively to bring Deadlight to the Xbox Live Summer of Arcade and if you enjoy a twisted 2D post-apocalyptic puzzle action games, then this game must be on your radar. Priced at a hefty 1200 MS points, Deadlight rises from the grave to attempt to compete in a very saturated survival horror market. Now lets see if its bark is as big as its bite.
Firing from the start Deadlight makes excellent use of all the experience at Tequila Works by providing a tremendously demented story involving a law enforcement officer turned survivor named Randal Wayne and his quest to find his friends and return to his family who were on their way to the city of Seattle's "Safe Point". Along the way you will witness twists and turns in the story as you piece together the past in order to preserve the future. As you progress through the games three acts, you will have to solve various puzzles by manipulating certain objects and you will have to survive against a sea of seemingly unlimited undead creatures called shadows. One of my biggest enjoyments of Deadlight was the fluid and responsive control system. For instance there was a time when you approach a building that is about to break down and collapse and you must tackle through a door, then quickly sprint and jump over a gap, then sprint through a path in the building with a collapsing roof to a broken down wall, which you must wall jump off of backwards to reach a climbing ledge so you can jump back to the broken down wall higher up and jump over it, roll out of the jump through the small opening on the other side of the room. All of this has to be done without stopping for one moment and thanks to the fluid gameplay, can be done fairly easily.
Don't get me wrong, not every obstacle is like this and thankfully you will get unlimited retries and you will have very frequent checkpoints so when you do pass on, you will have lost very little progress. This bodes well for the game since you can literally take as many tries as you want to try and figure out different puzzles and obstacles. Figuring out puzzles is only part of the experience as the other half is filled in with you literally killing anything that moves in a psychotic plot full of twists and turns. To do this you will have three different weapon choices:
1) Fireman's Axe - The tried and true fireman's axe provides Wayne a devastating melee attack that can either push back an enemy to prevent them from attacking at close range, or take off a shadow's head in one swipe, or can be used to execute a fallen enemy by a performing a mighty wood splitting movement to the head.
2) .38 Revolver - A fast and accurate weapon that holds six shots and more in reserve. This weapon is aimed using the Right Stick and when the red target is on the head of a shadow, you know what to do. Reloading the .38 is rapid with multiple presses of the Left Bumper but the main drawback is the scarce ammo. One shot headshots are almost demanded of you so you don't waste all six shots trying to bring down one enemy.
3) Shotgun - What would a survival horror game be without a tried and true, rib-splitting, shotgun? Aimed and controlled the same way as the .38 however the main drawback is this gun's ammo is far scarcer than the .38 but at close range this thunder stick can remove the heads of multiple enemies in one trigger pull. The shotgun is a waste when one on one, but essential when it's 30 on one. Whatever is in the front of the shotgun when you pull the trigger wont be there when the smoke clears. 'Nuff said.
While all of this amazing gameplay and puzzle solving will leave you highly entertained, a major factor to remember is that all of this is helped along by Tequila Works' amazing usage of the Unreal engine. 2D side scrolling action in a post-apocalyptic society done to an eerie backdrop of blacks and shadows with various run down color usage throughout all the levels. This game is strikingly good but some of the issues faced as you progress is that when you get into a mix of shadows who are all trying to kill you, you will find that your character is the same color, height, and almost shape as a shadow making it very hard sometimes to find your character in the middle of a mob. Think of it like "Where's Waldo", except under extreme pressure where if you fail, you die. Deadlight's cut scenes are also done in a comic style way where different screens show transitions from one act to another, but there's one bit of graphic work that stands out and those are the dream sequences.
These are sequences of Wayne's mind that come back to haunt, torment, and guide him throughout the game. This is where the twisted and psychotic mind of Wayne comes into play by taking him through some dramatic mental turns with his wife and daughter. There is only one more part that helps turn Deadlight into a must have game and that is the soundtrack. Haunting your ears from the title screen, Deadlight sets the stage for a demented journey down the path of the insane. As you progress through the levels you will hear a minimalistic score backed by ambient noises, shouts, screams, and more to help raise the suspense and leave you wondering, "If I charge this door, what's waiting for me on the other side?" You have heard the cliché that when things are quiet, they are "too quiet" and that is when you really must be on your toes. The only downfall for the audio would be the voice overs as they are not great but good.
With the Xbox Live Summer of Arcade in full swing, Deadlight is priced at 1200 MS points, and in my opinion is a deal and a half. The quality of content is amazing, and when you combine the psychotic storyline with the fluid gameplay and top it off with amazing use of the Unreal engine for graphics and a soundtrack that will drive suspense deep into your soul, Deadlight is easily one of the best Xbox Live Arcade games to come out this summer or arguably this year.
Suggestions: Please make further games with longer stories that are as amazing as Deadlight.