Too often the term “clone” gets thrown around when talking about videogames. If a game follows the formula of a previously successful title, people say it’s a clone. But I think that’s a little unfair, because unless a game pioneers a new genre or technique, all games are clones. Every FPS, every strategy game, every RPG follows previously proven formulas. The trick is to take something effective that another game did & put your own spin on it. That’s why Titan Quest did so well even though it was essentially Diabolo set in Greece. But can a game like Daylight, which is essentially a Slender clone, bring something new to the table?
Daylight is a survival horror game where you play as a woman named Sarah. Sarah wakes up in an abandoned hospital, apparently having been brought there by vengeful spirits. Armed with only a cellphone as her map & various light sources she finds throughout, Sarah must navigate her way out of the decrepit building with the somewhat suspect aid of a man’s voice who seems to know more of what’s going on. But she’ll have to survive the strange shadows that are out to kill her.
Daylight’s claim to fame is that it’s essentially a procedurally generated maze game. The layout of each area is random. Each level progresses basically in the same way: find enough notes to make the key appear & unlock the door to the next level. You can find glowsticks & flares to aid you. Glowsticks highlight searchable containers to help you find the notes faster, while flares will burn the witches that haunt you. But if you run out of flares you can always just run from the witches. The longer it takes you to finish the level, the higher your threat level reaches & the more likely you are to be attacked.
Narrative: Eh… I can’t help feeling that the story is the weakest part of Daylight. I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s bad, just clichéd. You learn about what’s going through notes, & while not being the most inventive narrative device, it gets the job done. The whole backstory for what’s wrong with the island has been done before. If you’ve seen Poltergeist, you know what to expect. But despite being clichéd, I felt there were a lot of important questions that didn’t get answered. Who was the voice guiding you? The game hints at it, but never comes out & says it or answers what happened to him. What’s with the mark on Sarah’s arm? Again, talked about in the notes but never explained why it appears on Sarah. And that ending! I really was following the story just fine until the very end & the game left me with questions about why the witches had brought Sarah back & ultimately what Sarah’s fate was. Was Sarah dead to begin with & the island was her purgatory? Was she just being tormented in her mind? It’s not the sort of open-endedness that leads to stimulating discussions. Just frustration. So that was the biggest letdown for me. But I will give the game credit on being able to portray Sarah as a bit more than just your standard silent protagonist. Although she’s quiet enough for players to project onto her, she still responds to what’s going on. She’ll scream, freak out over hauntings & call out into the darkness. But it’s not enough to redeem the lackluster plot. Score: 2
Mechanics: The best way to describe the gameplay in Daylight is by saying it’s like playing through Slender with a more competent protagonist. Thankfully you’re not completely defenseless. The flares will banish any witch. And even if you run out of flares, running is always a valid option. Sarah seems to have unlimited sprinting abilities & can run past every witch. However, I will say that I often got stuck on debris in the path when running, & you can’t turn when sprinting. Your map is invaluable & always visible, & it’s nice you can bring it up for a closer look if you get lost. The biggest draw of the game is the random room generation. This means the notes & room will be in a different place every time you play. However, I found this a bit hit-&-miss. It’s always a bit weird when you get multiples of the same rooms. In the prison level I honestly had three of those triangular office rooms, which made the layout of the area very confusing. It would’ve been better of there was a pool of rooms for each level, & once a room was used it was removed from the pool. This would also prevent the repeated scares. The first time a bed jumps at me, it’s scary. The fifth time, it’s annoying. I even had a few times when the game tried to trigger a scare but because said item had already moved, there was nothing but tense music. Which brings us to the subject of the enemies. I’ll say that, while I always found their presence distressing, as the game progresses they appear with annoying regularity. The prison level seemed to be the worst offender. Every time I turned around they were there. So overall, while Daylight has some nice elements, it’s hampered by repetitiveness & frustration. Score: 3
Aesthetics: I think the atmosphere for Daylight is the best part. The whole ambiance of game is spot on. For all the darkness & gloom, the environments are detailed. It’s the first game using the Unreal Engine 4, & it looks like we can expect good things from it. But it’s the sound design that sells the game. This is definitely a game you want to play with headphones. The sparse music is very tense. You can hear creaks & groans, footsteps & whispers. The witches really benefit from the music. Their screams & the violent, frantic strings playing when the witches are on the attack never ceased to send me into a panic. But the freakiest part was that you can hear their footsteps coming right up behind you. The witches only attack if you’ve seen them, but hearing something behind you is nerve-wracking. There was also this swooping sound behind me in the forest level that made want to cry. I never did look back to see what it was… And although the only voices are from Sarah & her guide, I didn’t notice any problems with them. Score: 5
Replay Value: Mixed. The random room generator obviously lends itself to multiple playthroughs, but I’m not really sure many people will want to play multiple times. The story won’t change. However, I’m intrigued by this ability to stream the game & let the viewers type in command codes to randomly scare the player. I think this could lend itself to many streams of Daylight. Score: 3
Overall Score: 3
Final Word: If you’ve played games like Slender before, you’ve played Daylight. But if you can slog through the story & repetitiveness to let yourself be immersed in the environment, I think you’ll find a fun, scary game. For all its flaws, I have to admit that Daylight is the only game to make me scream out loud. Not even Silent Hill could manage that.
Console: PC & PS4
Developer: Zombie Studios
Publisher: Atlus & Guy Studios
Release Date: April 29, 2014