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Review: Daylight


Marcus Estrada

Developer: Zombie Studios

Publisher: Zombie Studios, Atlus

Platform: PC (Steam), PS4 (PSN)

Release Date: April 29, 2014

ESRB: M for Mature

 

This review is based on the PS4 version of the game

 

 

Horror games have been around for a great many years, but as of late, they“ve seen a huge resurgence. The basic trend has been to move away from the action-style horror of modern series and attempt to distill horror to its most basic elements. Zombie Studios“ Daylight was announced as fitting squarely in the refreshed survival horror genre. Horror is a very temperamental thing which places Daylight in a precarious situation because it offers little else.

 

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The storyline of Daylight is incredibly simple at the onset. All you know is that you“re a woman named Sarah with a smartphone trapped in a dark, abandoned building. There are flourishes that make it seem like a hospital, but also bars and cells that would be at home in a prison. With both haunted hospitals and prisons being excellent settings for horror tales, it seems like a perfect setting. Although initially you are completely unaware of anything, your phone constantly maps the area as it is explored, effectively limiting the fear of the “unknown” so you don“t get lost.

 

Gameplay is incredibly simple and focuses on one pattern. Players must explore the stage for a required amount of notes, find a special item, and take that item to a glowing sigil somewhere else. If you can do that about five times in a row then the game will be over. Of course, it“s not that simple. Along the way you“ll come face to face with a resident spirit that is severely unhappy with your presence. Sometimes she“ll appear with a burst of flames around her, just to add insult to injury. Staring at her for too long strains Sarah“s mental fortitude - possibly leading to a game over.

 

This is where another element of gameplay comes in, although it“s very slight. Although the player has no weapons in an obvious sense, she can utilize flares scattered about the hospital to repel the ghost. There are also caches of glowsticks to be found. Although these have no impact on the spirit, they are useful for lighting up incredibly dark hallways. Oh, and they also cast interactable objects with a strange glow. In cabinets and lockers you“ll tend to find more light sources, letters, or nothing at all. Sometimes the cabinets will wiggle at you which is apparently meant to be spooky.

 

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Actually, a whole lot of Daylight focuses on the act of scaring rather than actually being scary. No matter how tough someone is, a good jump scare will make them jolt no matter what. Jump scares are exactly what the game aims for, by making sure to have that ghost meander about the hospital, always ready to scream when you turn around. Then there are all the rather lacking scares that come from the environment (boxes falling, drawers opening and shutting themselves, etc). The game never does anything to draw you in and take out your mental defenses. Instead, it is content with just trying to “boo” its way to terrorize.

 

This seems to be an unfortunate result of the game“s randomly-generated nature. In theory it sounds extremely cool to have a horror game that always changes stages up. The concept leads one to imagine incredibly creepy atmospheres that will never grow stale because they“re never the same. Daylight definitely has a good deal of variety per stage upon replay, but it still can“t manage to create tension. Instead, you may go an entire stage without ever seeing the ghost while other times she“ll keep popping up in a very short time span. In the latter case, even the most jumpy players will eventually become desensitized.

 

Randomness also taints the progression of story along the way. Each stage requires the collection of a certain amount of notes but there are far more available than you actually need. The overabundance helps the player from getting stuck for too long. However, it means there is not one well-crafted storyline to experience. Instead, there are scatterings of story threads but none of them are all that interesting. Because of the excess of papers, this also means that many feel repetitive. The writing itself is alright, but storytelling was definitely harmed by having to accommodate for a wealth of very similar text. On PS4, the text is also often hard to read due to being small and written with iffy color choices.

 

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Then there are the little things that just make the atmosphere too ridiculous to take seriously. For one, the voice of a Vincent Price-esque man pipes up through Sarah“s smartphone from time to time, spouting fragments of wisdom. What he“s hinting at is always fairly transparent, although if you don“t catch it, the game makes sure to spell it out in the final five seconds. Then there is Sarah herself who states the obvious randomly. She is understandably frightened, but her cries of “this is too much!” over tiny events are taken as silly rather than inspiring empathy.

 

For all that Daylight manages to get wrong, it“s not completely without merit. The atmosphere in and of itself can be creepy if you let yourself slowly meander through it and manage to have the ghost randomized such that she doesn“t continually pester you. The game is about as far from psychologically scarring you as it can get which places it more in the category of haunted houses. Haunted houses are fun because you know what you“re in for when visiting. The same holds true for this game. Go into Daylight with a mindset of getting jump scares left and right for about an hour and you won“t be disappointed.

 


Pros:

 

+ Good game to play with scaredy cats

+ Randomized areas have a great deal of variation

 

Cons:

 

- Storytelling is impinged due to the randomness of note-finding

- Prioritizes (mostly non-frightening) jump scares over all else

- Very short experience that doesn“t demand repeated playthroughs

 


Overall Score: 5 (out of 10)

Average

 

If you“re a fan of tame haunted houses and would like to recreate the experience at home then Daylight should suffice.

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