Press Start Review: Deadlight

We all have some darkness inside. No matter who you are, what walk of life you come from, everyone has a little voice inside that tells us to do evil, to steal, to mock, maybe even to do harm. But we all (I’m hoping, dear reader, I can include you in this) push those thoughts away… Either by pushing them down as deep as they can go, or letting them drift out of our minds like a mistaken fart in the wind. We survive our day to day lives because we have the ability to know right from wrong.

But then suddenly ZOMBIES OH GOD. Or “shadows” as they are named in the game – and an apt name at that. These aren’t just typical zombies. Yes they slouch around, trying to bite you, and only a head shot will kill them, but when they appear, they are always coming out of the shadows. From the background, from under your feet. They come from the dark places in a ruined city, and they are coming for your flesh.

Deadlight is the story of Randall Wayne, a park ranger who is looking for his wife and daughter in the midst of a zombie outbreak in Seattle. The city is ruined, there are Shadows everywhere, and all you know is that everyone is trying to get to the safe zone at the stadium where the military is supposed to protect the survivors. We don’t know why Randall was separated from his family first, but through cut scenes drawn in a scratchy motion comic we learn more and more about what happened to everyone, why we are in the situation to begin with, and what we have to do to find his wife and daughter. Along the way you meet old friends who you thought died who can help you on your journey, and…Interesting denizens of the underground.

The game mechanics themselves are pretty straight forward – it is a platformer. Try to jump and shimmy and crawl through different obstacles, using what you find along the way (such as weapons and fire axes) to solve different puzzles; all while trying to avoid the dark for fear it will rise up with no warning.

This is not to say there are jump scares. When they start moving, the shadows are slow and deliberate – which I find to be far more distressing in some ways.

The overall art is wonderful. The city’s very spirit seems broken, as you climb through shattered glass, boarded up doors, and climb up neon signs that are falling apart as you go. Everything is fluid, and even through this is a 2D platformer, shadows and other enemies do come out of the background, as if they are walking down an alleyway towards you. Again – scarier than jump scares in many ways.

The shadows. The dark part of our hearts that we try so hard to forget and try so very hard to push down is really the focus of this story. This isn’t a tale questioning if we are any different than the zombies. This is a story about one man fighting against his own darkness, his own fear, his own self-loathing to find and save the only two people he has in this world. He is fighting his own shadows. He is fighting back the darkness both physically and emotionally.

Can he do it? What happens when he finds his wife? His daughter? It made my jaw drop to the floor when I found out.

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