flufflogic's Deadlight (Xbox 360 Games Store) review

Don't fear the dead, fear the systems

So, I finished Deadlight about half an hour ago. Collecting myself, and trying not to let that end section cloud my judgement, I figured now is a good time to review.

Act 1 takes around half an hour. In this time, you learn the game's mechanics, get seeped in the setting and atmosphere, and generally get your bearings on what is to come. It's a tutorial, if you will. Now, there are issues with this; one, there are a few things it actually doesn't teach you (it is wise, before starting, to read and try remember the controls layout; only some of it will be explained in the tutorial, oddly), and two, this tutorial doesn't really stop there.

In fact, a large part of the start of act 2 is also tutorial - of a different sort. The first 4 chapters teach you things you will need to finish the game, and by this point, you are halfway to that end. Still, it's good that it has made you familiar with what to do - as you'll need to remember it in an instant to do the rest.

Because, once you're out of the Rat Man's "care", it's pretty much going to be a lesson in trying, failing, and trying again. The game will establish rules and break them quickly, and you'll want to turn your brightness up just to see what's coming. I spent a good 5 minutes today on a simple puzzle, simply because what I needed to do was so small and dark it simply wouldn't show up on my TV. And to add insult to injury, the helpful glow of where to go was on the object, not the solution...

That is the main thing I have taken away from Deadlight - frustration. There are several moments where the solution is right there, but it's just not easily visible, and others where it fails to telegraph that actually you're on the clock. Heck, sometimes you'll die repeatedly because the controls just aren't registering - I've leapt into canals when holding the opposite direction, for example, or jumped up instead of outwards. The final chapter is an exercise in keeping a level head or else you're going to smash everything, as it requires an accuracy and intuition the controls almost seem designed to frustrate.

It's not an awful game, though; it's no Shadow Complex, but it is in many ways very similar. The plot is predictable but well paced, and the game comes together well - and then ends. The last chapter is half as long as the previous two, and yet has double the "but! What the! How? Why? Arghhhh!" moments. Competent is a very good word for how it all feels, and as such, that's my score: competent. Not great, not awful - competent.


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