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Critical Reception: Tequila Works' Deadlight

This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Tequila Works' zombie apocalypse-themed platformer Deadlight, which reviews describe as "an engaging, memorable experience."
This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Tequila Works' zombie apocalypse-themed platformer Deadlight, which reviews describe as "an engaging, memorable experience." Deadlight currently earns a score of 69 out of 100 at Metacritic.com. IGN's Ryan McCaffrey rates Deadlight at 8.5 out of 10. "It's hard not to be reminded of previous Summer of Arcade stars Limbo and Shadow Complex when you fire up Deadlight," he notes. "Like its Xbox Live Arcade forebears, it's a side-scrolling puzzle platformer, it emphasizes exploration, and it boasts breathtaking art direction." "Deadlight is no Left 4 Dead-style action game," McCaffrey continues. "It's true that you do sometimes wield an axe or a gun and must, on occasion, liberate an infected person's head from their undead body, but Randall progresses by running, jumping, rolling, and generally trying to avoid the red-eyed menace that hungers for the flesh of you and your missing family." McCaffrey is impressed with the game's visual style. "It's Deadlight's presentation that surprised me most of all," he praises. "Quite simply, its aesthetic is gorgeous, with a silhouetted Randall in a darkened foreground running for his life in front of a drab, muted, crumbling Seattle. Several of Deadlight's set-pieces are so stunning that I had to actually stop to admire them before pressing onward." "Deadlight lacks neither style nor substance, and it lasts just about the perfect amount of time," McCaffrey notes. "The story is minimal but engaging, and the ending is unexpected -- in a good way. A couple of sections stumble a bit, but not enough to detract from what is an engaging, memorable experience." Eric Patterson at Electronic Gaming Monthly gives Deadlight a 7 out of 10. "Initially, Deadlight looks as if it could be light in concept, but in actuality, it holds a real depth underneath its surface," he writes. "While the concept is traditional 2D side-scrolling action-platforming fare, rather than giving foreground characters and elements emphasis -- which is usually the norm -- it's the world beyond that action where things really come to life." "It isn't just the gameplay aspects of what developer Tequila Works has done here that impress," Patterson says. "Seeing a horde of Shadows -- as the undead are called in Deadlight -- shamble into your path from their original position off in the distance is awesome, but equally impactful is the richness and detail in all of the stages." The gameplay occasionally stumbles, however. "When those three elements -- platforming, combat, and puzzle-solving -- work, they provide some fantastic gaming," Patterson explains. "Sometimes, however, they don't -- such as the occasional situation where Randall's slightly cumbersome nature causes frustration when dealing with a group of Shadows or the start of the game's second chapter, when, for some reason, we're overburdened with a glut of puzzles to figure out." "Larger than that, Deadlight is just too short -- though its length is padded with an overreliance on trial-and-error segments," Patterson recalls. "When Deadlight allows itself to calm down a little and simply gives us the experience of making our way through the ruins of what we once called society, it imparts an atmosphere that's not only enthralling, but almost beautiful. Then, it cranks up the 'hardcore gameplay' requirements up to 11 -- and, in doing so, loses some of its focus on what is most important." Wired's Ryan Rigney scores Deadlight at 5 out of 10. "The real problem with Deadlight [...] is that it doesn't aspire to be anything more than 'just another zombie game' or 'just another side-scrolling adventure game,'" he begins. "Not a single piece of it will surprise you. You've seen it all before, but here it is again in a slightly repackaged way." "For starters, the story wouldn't be compelling even for someone who's never heard of zombies," he continues. "The main character Randall is a ruminating cynic with no original thoughts but plenty to say. The rest of the cast are cliches in character form. If you want, you can learn more about Randall's backstory by finding pieces of his diary, but given the generic nature of this zombie apocalypse, there's no reason to read them." Combat is also problematic. "Even once you've knocked down a zombie with your ax, continuing to swing can sometimes stand them back up, causing them to become a threat again," Rigney warns. "And since Randall is confined to moving on a 2-D plane in an otherwise 3-D world, he'll sometimes be faced with zombies emerging from the background, which he can't damage until they've stumbled into parallel with him. For me, this resulted in a lot of frustrating waiting and whiffed swings, since it's often difficult to tell where on the Z-axis the zombies are." "Deadlight isn't a poor game, just average," Rigney concludes. "If Deadlight developers Tequila Works developed another game with some more original ideas, I'd like to play it. But when there are great zombie games like Telltale's The Walking Dead out there, 'average' isn't good enough."

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