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ESRB: Mature - M
Platform: Xbox 360
Category: Action Games

I’ve experienced a recent string of bad luck when it comes to XBOX Arcade games. Those I’ve tried have been puzzling, choppy, and simply ineffective in their attempts to engage me. Deadlight is not like other XBOX Arcade games. Developer, Tequila Games, took a risk by focusing their efforts on creating a compelling story and unique visuals with only a few gameplay actions to propel the character from one side of the game to the other. The best part? It totally worked.


As the protagonist, you play Mr. Wayne, a man who has been separated from his family within an apocalyptic Seattle, Washington. Your goal is to guide Mr. Wayne to a safe house on the opposite side of the city where he believes his family might still be. Armed with nothing but a few sparse weapons and his incredible fortitude, Mr. Wayne must fight his way through zombies, treacherous passageways, and a host of bizarre traps and pitfalls.

The entirety of gameplay boils down to platforming elements with only a few combat situations. You can run, duck, jump, climb, swing, roll, and smash through multiple ledges, buildings, and other platforms that bar your way to the safe house. Because these platforms exist within the decrepit, nearly-abandoned backdrop of Seattle, it gives the player the sensation that the environment itself is Mr. Wayne’s greatest threat. Yes, there are zombies (known as “shadows” in this game). However, it is always within the player’s best interests to avoid confrontation with the shadows and simply focus on propelling Mr. Wayne from one platform to the next as quickly as possible.

Platforming is not only necessary to beat Deadlight, it is also a lot of fun. Success hinges on deducing the quickest way through a room or building and then executing proper climbing and jumping techniques to get there. Do it wrong and you’ll quickly fall to your death or get devoured by shadows. This affords Deadlight a certain sensation of frenzy and despair. After all, Mr. Wayne, despite his impeccable climbing abilities, is not all that strong. Yes, you can fight the shadows, but your limited array of weapons and stamina means you’re better off avoiding them altogether.

Platforming can be tough to control at times. There were moments when I would execute a long jump perfectly only to have Mr. Wayne go sailing off the opposite end of the platform where he would quickly get impaled by spikes or die on impact. Combat is also nothing to get overly excited about. Nevertheless, these elements combine to make an experience that is frantic, fun, and altogether enjoyable.


Visuals are undoubtedly another of Deadlight’s strong points. Deadlight is a sidescrolling game, but includes impressive 3D backgrounds and effects. Everything is laced with a shadowy filter reminiscent of another great XBOX Arcade title, Limbo. The high level of shadowy effects and darkened environments can make it difficult to see your next objective, but that’s part of the mystique. There were times when I was caught on the ground, relentlessly pursued by shadows and unable to find the door leading to safety. In a last ditch effort, I would cast myself off a building or into a dark corner of the screen, hoping to find respite. Half the time I would succeed. Half the time I would die a grisly death. I didn’t mind dying, however, as death simply required me to take a step back and rework the situation before taking that first initial leap.

There are a few cut scenes in Deadlight. These take place in a comic-like, almost paperwork fashion. Characters appear as cutouts against a grainy background, caught in freeze-frame while texts and audio propel the story to the next level. It was an interesting artistic choice on the behalf of Tequila Games, but one I enjoyed. Hardcore gamers may not find it all that intriguing, but it serves its purpose beautifully.


Sound effects are somewhat lacking in Deadlight. There are enough to support whatever is happening on screen (e.g. rain, water, crumbling platforms, moaning zombies), but these are easily overlooked amidst the heat of the moment. The majority of sounds in Deadlight, therefore, are encapsulated by the narration and voice acting.

This is probably the area in which Deadlight most falls flat. The story and characters are interesting enough, but voice acting tends to err on the side of being too obvious. There are multiple occasions when Mr. Wayne comments to others that he “needs to find his friends.” This is fairly apparent from the get-go, so it got monotonous quickly. At other times the narration is so obvious that it comes across as unnecessary. This is minor complaint in the grand scheme of things, but something certainly worth mentioning.


Deadlight is a spectacular game, no doubt about it. It is one of the few XBOX Arcade titles that combines streamlined platforming with an intriguing story and cool characters. There isn’t a whole lot to Deadlight beyond what is experienced within the first few minutes (i.e. jumping, running, etc), but it is still fun from beginning to end. Furthermore, Deadlight doesn’t pull any punches regarding what it aspires to be. It promises to be a dark, enigmatic story set against an apocalyptic background. It then quickly propels players into that dark, enigmatic world and lets them fend for themselves. As a gamer, that’s all I’ve ever wanted.


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