As a kid, I grew up with the Nintendo Entertainment System in the living room. My gaming diet was a steady blast of classics like Super Mario Bros. and Ninja Gaiden. One of my first experiences in a post-NES world was at a cousin’s house, where I played the Sega CD version of Prince of Persia. I found that I hated it, and upon looking back I can tell you why. It stood in stark contrast to everything else I had experienced up to that point in one important area: the controls. Other classic games failed to resonate with me due to the same issue, namely Flashback and Out of this World. Now, I can play those games today. Hell, I even enjoy them. But I’m still not a huge fan of the controls. Tequila Works’ Deadlight feels like one of these games, though it’s linear and more cinematic. It was a relatively enjoyable experience, but it felt like the controls wanted to ruin things the entire time.
As far as summertime zombie epics go, Deadlight does a great job establishing its universe. The environments are painstakingly detailed, from bombed-out downtown streets to derelict neighborhoods. You really get the feeling that humanity not only struggled, they went down kicking and screaming. The world proves to be the game’s best developed character, not just because of the aesthetics, but because of how they work into the gameplay. Jumping in and out of the broken windows of an overrun home allows you to continue your journey while illustrating the plight of humanity at the same time. Scaling the side of a demolished hotel allows you to see a greater scope of the destruction while establishing how far one must go to survive. There are smaller applications as well, whether you’re knocking the supports out of a propped-up window to open a path or chopping the padlock off a chained-up door, it’s made clear that nothing will ever come easy again.
Regardless, Mr. Wayne is a capable individual, and his apathy can’t ruin the fun you’ll have in some of the game’s more thrilling moments. Whether you’re traversing power lines over a crowd of zombies or running Canabalt-style across rooftops, Tequila Works proves they have an eye for spectacle. You’ll find that you have to repeat several of these parts due to the occasionally unwieldly controls, though. There were a few times Randall just refused to climb up a wall and jump over during tense, chase-style moments. There were even times he’d jump off the wall, back toward his doom instead. Other situations saw him jump forward and off a cliff and into a pit instead of jumping up to the ledge I needed him to grab. I don’t know if the developers thought the controls would add to the tension, but they certainly add some frustration. Still, it was never enough to sully the entire experience, even if the frequent retries led me to know some areas of the game way better than I ever intended.
In many ways, Deadlight is a better game as a whole than its pieces are individually. If you can accept the controls for what they are and don’t expect a stirring narrative then you’ll certainly find something worthwhile. While it isn’t a must-play, it is a game with a lot to offer to those with vested interests in the end of the world, zombies or classic games like Out of this World.
Deadlight was purchased by the reviewer and is available now for 1200 Microsoft points ($15) on the XBLA marketplace.