GAME REVIEW: Daylight

Naming a game after something that is so sorely missing from it is either cruel or a touch of genius. Humans don’t tend to notice the lack of something as easily as something strange that is there. Be under no illusions, Daylight keeps you in the dark at all times.

That might be a slight lie. You do have a mobile phone with you. You also have the opportunity to collect other light producing objects in the guise of glow sticks and flares. You control Sarah, an unfortunate soul who is trapped inside an abandoned hospital and must find her way out. Like all good horrors though, the place is far from empty.

The way to escape is to explore and try to get to the bottom of what happened at the hospital. You do this by opening every cupboard, desk and box, or even finding notes or photos pinned to the wall. Using a glow stick helps you find places to look more easily. These notes are referred to as ‘Remnants’ and you must collect a set amount before a sigil appears in one location of the map. Sarah can take this sigil (the first is a teddy-bear) to the other place bearing the same markings and use it to break through the mystical barrier to a new area.

Daylight Screenshot 1

Oh I glossed over the “not empty” part of the hospital didn’t I? There are sounds of running footsteps, small imp like things and ghostly witches that come towards you making Sarah cry out in fear and her phone crackle and buzz. There are some really nice jumpy moments in the game. You might enter a room and some object will fly towards you. You might turn a corner and a vivid psychic impression will jar your senses and make you swear out loud. The atmosphere created by walking around with so little light is very enjoyable to a certain kind of person. The music aids this too, coming more to the foreground with a high-pitched whine as things get nearer or you are being chased.

For chased you will be. A lot of the jumpy moments are benign, they won’t actually harm you. The witches will though. If they get too close, Sarah panics and everything grows dimmer and dimmer. The way to get away from them is to light a flare if you have one. These burn the apparitions up. If you don’t have a flare, running is your only option.

Daylight Screenshot 2

This is the crux of the game. Rinse an area for remnants, get the sigil and take it to the exit. While enjoyable enough and creepy enough, you soon begin to feel it’s a bit of busy work to tell you the story. The notes all hint at the usual kind of troubled hospital that you would expect in this kind of game. I must admit that they didn’t stick with me particularly well.

Daylight features a procedurally generated world which is designed to make each playthrough unique and different. Whilst having varying scares and other events is nice, the actual layout being different each time feels a bit ‘meh’. You walk about sparse corridors, a few old beds in one, one old desk in another and soon have seen these repeat a good few times in your quest for the items you need. Yes the layout of the level as a whole might be different, but as you walk around with your eyes glued to the map on your phone, you don’t really feel the benefit of that too much. It’s a little like rolling a handful of dice. Yes you may get different numbers and arrangements, but a six is a six, a two a two, and there is no disguising that. Later outside levels fare a little bit better in this regard, with a particularly creepy wood looking really quite good.

I have to admit that I didn’t play that creepy wood level myself though. I was unlucky enough to have large performance issues with the game on my PC. My computer meets the minimum and recommended specs but it seemed to struggle mightily with Daylight. Initially it was just upon leaving one area and entering a new one. I would get into the new zone and my frames per second would drop to maybe one frame every thirty seconds. If I left my PC alone it would resolve in about ten minutes and I could then play the new area. However about two-thirds of the way through the game you come to a sewage or water system with lots of cascading water. This caused the same issue but it never bounced back so I could get no further in the game. Even with all graphical settings turned to their lowest the issue stayed the same. I suspect its something to do with the procedural generation of the next level. A quick glance at the Steam forums for the game show that I am not the only one having problems so hopefully it is something that the developer can fix with a patch. Consequently, I had to flesh out the last aspects of my opinion by watching ‘Let’s Plays’ on Youtube. What I saw didn’t really change my view of the game or the score I ultimately gave it.

Zombie Studios’ Daylight is a nice little horror game for the price (around £12). It will give you some jump-scares and the music and graphical tone all lend it a menacing atmosphere which doesn’t devolve into running and hiding every few seconds. The procedural generation is a bit of a disappointment but isn’t totally without merit. It just became all too easy to see the repetition too quickly. If you like horror games in this style, I am sure you will get your moneys worth and at least a couple of replays out of it.

Version Reviewed: PC (also available on PS4)

Rating: 3/5
Reviewer: Casey Douglass

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