Deadlight. It's all in the name. It's dark, gritty and depressing. You follow park ranger Randall Wayne as he searches for his wife, child and friends, all of whom get separated. And when you're a survivor in a zombie apocalypse, the last thing you want to be is alone.
Wayne's athletic ability and his proficiency with fire axes is what will get you through the world. Deadlight is a 2D Platformer which seems to draw quite a bit of inspiration from Limbo. The quick deaths for one but also the heavy use of silhouettes and dark colours. It achieves the same effect as Limbo: atmosphere. The zombies are referred to as 'Shadows' and that's what they look like. The whole world is a mess of black shadows, devoid of humanity.
Unfortunately, this colour scheme tends not to go well with precision platforming. It's often difficult to tell which murky grey ledge you need to jump onto next, nor whether a platform is solid or just part of the background, leading to Wayne confidently jumping off to his death. Wayne's also very fussy about how close to a ledge he needs to be before grabbing it, leading to a lot of hopping up and down trying to make the game understand what you're trying to do. It's frustrating but not to a level where you'll stop playing because of it. When you get down to it, Deadlight is really all about the jumping. There are a few puzzles that require you to push blocks around or shoot various things but these are simple in the extreme and usually just lead on to more jumping. Not that that it's a bad thing. The jumping is put to great use, particularly in a rooftop level, a clear nod to Canabalt, which has you running over cranes and diving through windows.
The running and jumping feels better when teamed with the combat. The combat is frustrating, but for a good reason. Ammo is incredibly scarce, meaning that when you run out you have to rely on your axe, your legs and your wits. You can handle a single zombie no problem but more than that will kill you quickly. It means you don't have any time to relax; you've got to jump and hope you land on something soft. At various points it advises you just to give up on trying to fight a horde and just leg it. It also borrows Limbo's love for traps, so you'll need to watch your feet, as well as the zombies.
In truth, the only major criticism I have for Deadlight is the whole Zombie thing. The main story of Deadlight is predictable down to the last detail. The world gets split into survivors, zombies and the military, which is busy shooting at the first two. It's a shame because the main character is well written, with deep seated issues that keep popping up when he's put under pressure. He also gets explored further through collectable diary pages, yet he's placed in this tired setting and given a predictable ending. Renaming the zombies to 'shadows' is at least an attempt to make them sound more interesting, but it never really escapes from the old clichés, right down to a helicopter crash. The story is at least well told, with cutscenes made to look hand drawn and decent voice acting delivering the lines.
So, would I recommend Deadlight? Yes, I have to say I would, despite the setting. There are far worse zombie games out there and few that I know of that create this level of loneliness and suspense. Wayne can only take a few hits before dying, so it turns into a real fight for survival. Don't expect to be drawn in by the storyline, but play for the feeling instead. Put yourself in Wayne's shoes and you'll run for your life.
Price: 1200 MS points
Link to store page.