Dimly-lit corridors, cobwebs, rusty beds and the distant moans of the fiends that go bump in the night, are all components of a fairly foolproof horror setting…if it were in real-life. But could the same be said in Daylight’s case, or is it simply an overused cliché?
Horror takes on many forms, but one thing is clear, no one would willingly want to wake up in the middle of an abandoned mental institution in the dead of night. The same could be said of our dearest heroine, Sarah, after she mysteriously awakens in a hospital ward with nothing but a cellphone to offer her light. She hears a voice. Is she hearing it with her ears or with her mind? Is it coming from her phone or her imagination? Whoever he is, he’s trying to help her get out. But why? What’s in it for him? So many questions left unanswered, but there’s no time for that. Sarah needs to run, because the shadows are out to get her.
What makes Daylight unique is that the mazelike levels, and its contents, are procedurally generated, meaning you’ll get a new experience each time you start a new game. This, however, doesn’t mean you’ll HAVE a new experience. The objective of each level, no matter how it’s changed, remains the same. Fortunately, you won’t be doing the same thing in just one location. There are a few places our damsel will journey to: a hospital, a prison, a graveyard/forest and a sewer. Each level, though it will never look the same, has the same basic objective: unlock the door at the end of the maze.
Unlocking the magically protected door requires a very unique key, the sigil. This item can only be unlocked by locating and obtaining a certain amount of notes or diary pages scattered throughout the stage. To help you collect these items, you’ll need to use one of the three tools in your possession. Along the way you’ll need to collect glowsticks and flares (the third tool is the cellphone). Glowsticks are used to highlight objects that may contain items, such as more glowsticks, flares or notes. Other than finding them in boxes, you can also find them stuck on walls, chairs, desks, etc. and have a little red symbol on them. The problem with collecting these notes is that they wake up the bogeywoman.
The main enemies are the shadows of witches who want nothing, but to kill Sarah. In order to protect herself, Sarah needs to light flares which instantly, though only temporarily, vaporise them. It is ther only means of protection, but sometimes it’s just not good enough. The action of ditching the glowstick, reaching for the flare, and lighting it, is very slow. This is unfortunate as the witches need only a few moments, about 3 seconds, to kill you off. You can survive by running, but there’s no 180 degree insta-turn button, so by the time you’ve turned around you’ll most likely be dead. It’s extremely frustrating as dying sends you back to the start of the level where you have to redo everything you’ve already done.
Another snag in the game is when you are holding the sigil. The sigil, as mentioned before, is a type of key that breaks the seal of the exit door. It takes on a form of a mundane object, like scissors, a teddy bear or a book, but can only be unlocked once you obtain enough notes. Once you collect the sigil, the witches are out at full force and you can’t drop it to use flares. So it’s important to know where the exit is and how to get there as quickly as possible. If you know the route by memory, you’ll be fine. Stopping to look at the GPS will get you killed, so memorizing the route is vital!
Sadly, the whole process itself is short and dull. It’s basically a slight imitation of Slenderman, without the darkness to make it scary. Instead, the levels are coated with silly off-timed cliché spooks. Ceiling tiles fall, boxes move and fall (with odd physics I should I add), doors close on their own, lightbulbs flicker or explode, you get transported to a Silent hill-esque location for a little while, and various objects move on their own. It’s dead obvious and comes across as scary as a made-to-dvd B-rate “don’t run up the stairs” horror movie. The one thing the game does manage to get right is the surprise scare of the witches themselves. Most times they won’t attack you head on; they’ll appear the second you turn around. Other times the GPS will bug out, letting you know it’s time to light a flare. Unfortunately, due to the repetitive nature of the game, the witches’ spooks do become predictable and less effective over the course of the game, especially if you decide to play it in one sitting.
One thing I did find that was fairly mediocre was the visuals. The locations weren’t bad and there’s a fair amount of detail, plus it’s believable, but the witches were such a let down. Aesthetically, they don’t look that well designed or threatening. The font size of the notes is very small and there’s no zoom button, so I had to move closer to the screen just to read it. Even Jennifer is a little underwhelming. You can hear the clacking of her shoes, yet she has no feet. Her hands are the only bit of her we see. She also has a habit of randomly shouting “I know you’re there” when there’s no one around, or “It’s so dark” when the light from her GPS illuminates the entire room. Even her screams don’t feel real at times.
Although Daylight had the potential to become a really great and unique horror game, it fails at being a good horror game in the first place. The objectives in each level are tedious and repetitive. There are no unlockables or extras to hunt down. It’s far too dependent on cliché horror scare tactics and just doesn’t reach further than mediocre. It’s not the worst game to see the light of day this year, but it is one of the most disappointing.