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E3 Preview: Deadlight

Susan Arendt | 11 Jun 2012 16:18
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Imagine, for a moment, what you would do if there was a zombie pandemic. I don't mean what the fantasy you would do, I mean the real you. You'd probably do your best to reconnect with your family or loved ones, and you'd avoid the infected as much as you could - exactly what you'll be asked to do in Deadlight, an enticing 2d puzzle platformer coming out in late July or August as part of XBLA's Summer of Arcade.

Deadlight takes place in 1986 Seattle, 145 days after Patient Zero. You play as Randall Wayne, a Park Ranger trying to find his loved ones as he makes his way across the ruined landscape. Though you'll encounter plenty of the undead, this is no zombie shooter; Randall is an ordinary guy and he has no interest in coming any closer to his enemies than he absolutely has to. Running away is frequently the best option, but when you must make a stand, you'll concentrate on using the environment to your best advantage. In one section, I dropped a bunch of heavy boxes through some rotten floorboards, leaving a gaping pit for the lemming-like zombies to follow each other into. In another section, I taunted some zombies into shambling towards me - and right into the electrified puddle that stood between us.

The undead of Deadlight aren't very bright, but they're deadly if they get within arms' reach, so in many cases your best option is to simply run or find high ground. Getting to safety won't always be easy, of course, so you'll have to find ways to get through doors and past obstructions like deep water (Randall can't swim, poor thing). There are plenty of collectibles to find as you explore the stunning environment, which has the shadowy tones and silhouettes of sunset. Pages from Randall's diary are tucked away, waiting to be found and provide background on the characters and the world since the calamity happened. You can read the first few on Deadlight's Facebook page.

You might be getting tired of the glut of zombie everything, but the fact that you're running from the undead is incidental to Deadlight's appeal. The zombies aren't really the point of the game, they're just what keeps Randall moving - the interesting aspects of the game are its lovely visual style, clever use of environment, and Randall himself. He's a bitter man, but for entirely relatable reasons. In just a few short months, everything he knew has been ripped away, he's on the run for his life, and he's alone - who wouldn't be angry?

Developer Tequila Works told me that some of the inspiration for Deadlight came from Flashback and Another World, and that influence shows. The summer cannot get here quickly enough.
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