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The general consensus has been that this year’s Summer of Arcade has been one of, if not the weakest years of the programme so far. Is Deadlight the best of the lot, or is it the reason for the malaise?

Posted by Staff on Sep 21, 2012 10:55 (Sep 21, 2012 10:55)

Written by: Ian
A shining light in the Summer of Arcade?
The general consensus has been that this year’s Summer of Arcade has been one of, if not the weakest years of the programme so far. Is "Deadlight" the best of the lot, or is it the reason for the malaise?
It’s the 80’s. Seattle, and presumably the US as a whole, has been destroyed by a zombie apocalypse. Society is gone, and bands of survivors battle for survival, whilst what remains of the military is shady and not really trustworthy.
Enter our protagonist, Randall, an ordinary guy searching for his family, and trying to look out for his fellow man. He narrates the story as you progress through, which gives it a slightly Bastion-esque feel in parts.
The second act takes a dip, but the third act was a real return to form. You now know Randall, his fragile mental state, and this is his discovery, his redemption. Many people found the end to be a crushing disappointment, but in a world of happy endings, this had more than a hint of welcome darkness and pessimism that I found refreshing.
Deadlight is the latest in a long line of XBLA 2D games. You move from left to right through a series of linear levels, and get some new abilities and weapons as you progress through the increasingly difficult scenarios.
Deadlight screenshot #1
The first act is just amazingly well done. It’s perfectly paced, starting slow and very story focused, whilst not giving anything away, but with a steady stream of new mechanics. The first act takes about an hour to go through, but provides a good level of challenge, and a nice mixture of story, combat, and puzzle solving. The second act is a pretty abject failure in comparison, with an over-emphasis on timing based platforming that the controls don’t feel tight enough for, and some irritating characters I wished I could just kill or leave to die.
The story picks up for the final, shorter third act, but it again requires a good deal of timing based platforming, and even more annoying, timing based shooting, which is even less precise and fiddly. It does create some frustration, especially when faced with large numbers of opponents, made worse by the fact it’s often difficult to tell when stuff coming from the background reaches your very limited plane of action.
Deadlight screenshot #2
Deadlight only takes 2 hours to complete, but by the time you add in failures, and going back to pick up any secrets, you probably have 4-5 hours worth of gameplay, which feels just right. Anything more would have been stretching the story, which already feels like it nearly collapsed under the weight of Act 2 and the tepid sewer levels.
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