Friday, August 3, 2012

Swing and a miss

I am having a hard time condensing my thoughts about Deadlight into words. I am not pleased with it, but that is not what upsets me. Terrible games are my bread and butter. I live on them in both good times and bad.  What does upset me is how clear the path from meh to holy shit is and the only obstacle was most likely money.

First of all, fire all the voice actors. All of them. Not a single person who lent their voice to the game deserved to get paid for their work. Spend the money and get a few professionals. There are only three or four speaking parts in the game, one of which delivers ninety percent of the lines. Lines that should have had gravitas were delivered with all the enthusiasm or weight of a Taco Bell order. There are people out there who do exactly this sort of thing for a living. Hire them.

On that note, fire the people who came up with the comic book style cut scenes. They all looked terrible and  could have been done better in engine. Almost every area was chock full of detail that would benefit from a closer look, some of which are seen only once and then for just a few seconds. Use what you have, pay some animators (who must have already been there because the in game animation is very good) and run the scene in game.

Last but not least, hire a writer. This is the inaugural effort from Tequila Works and it shows. The game itself is good, even great, but the way the game is delivered is not. The levels are in the wrong order and move further and further away from what the game actually does well: treating zombies as an environmental hazard instead of something the player needs to kill. Act I is excellent; it is lonely, dreary, and the zombies that do show up act as a motivator to get the platforming done more quickly and accurately. Act II leaves the zombies behind and is a direct rip of the old Prince of Persia. It's not bad, but it is not the game I paid the play. At least Jordan Mechner got a thank you note in the credits in at attempt to keep his lawyers at bay.

Act III was terrible. I will not spoil it, as the game came out of Wednesday, but it is a let down and the climax is both poorly written and acted.

I can't tell which came first, the story or the game. Both were bent in odd directions for the benefit of the other leaving the pair worse off than they should be. I do not care how much the game cost or how long it took to finish. Games like Flower and to a lesser extent Journey have proven that a short experience, properly paced, is just as effective as one that takes weeks to complete. Deadlight is not too short or too expensive, but it is too sloppy and cliched in execution to be recommended.

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