Over the past few years, there have been an influx of horror games on the PC. These have ranged from the excellent Amnesia: The Dark Descent to Slender: The Eight Pages. Yet, almost inevitably, these video games become fodder for screamy YouTube celebrities. These YouTubers oftentimes can act as ambassadors for really good games. What happens, though, when a game is made almost specifically for them? Daylight, seemingly, is the result and consequentially it feels almost like a cynical cash grab.
Daylight has a somewhat ambiguous set up. You find yourself placed in an abandoned hospital for seemingly no real reason. As you begin to explore the hospital, you find psychic remnants all around. After collecting a set number of these remnants, which oftentimes take the form of a piece of paper with some minor exposition on them, you need to find a specific relic that appears and head to the exit of the level. All the while, you are being haunted by a witch who will track you down and kill you if you look at her too long.
If this set-up doesn’t sound familiar, then you’ve likely not played Slender: The Arrival. Yes, the game feels like it flat out steals many elements of its gameplay from the Slender games. There are a few minor changes, such as having flares that can scare away the witch and having glow sticks that are your main way of actually finding these pages of paper. However, having the ability to scare away the witch makes her presence far less dramatic, especially when there are levels that have boxes of infinite flares in them. You can literally find each page, grab a new flare and never once need to worry about death.
Any and all tension will be removed for most players once they figure out that they can map the locations of both the exit and the relic to their in-game phone before collecting pages. Since the witch doesn’t become a threat until after you collect a certain amount of relics, you can find everything you need in order to create as simple of a path between you and the exit. All of the challenge disappears in a flash after this.
While the game can be faulted somewhat for its lack of scares, what really drags it down is how little creativity it feels the project as a whole has. As you go through a level, you’ll read about different people in the hospital who went crazy over the years. While it might have been interesting to have these crazy people as your enemies, you’re limited to the single witch who only has a single trick of screaming at you until you die. That alone makes this game feel like it was designed for YouTubers. The game has screamy, jump scares that really aren’t all that scary for most veteran horror game players. While the first time you might get startled, it becomes more of a nuisance as you go through the game. There’s little tension but the game insists on throwing jump scares at you as much as it can. There are times when the witch will simply spawn right behind you after you enter a room. It makes it feel like the game is just trying to mess with you, rather than build a solid atmosphere of fright.
On top of that, while the game advertises itself as procedurally generated (making every single play through different), most of the levels play nearly the same when replayed. Set-pieces are moved to different spots, but the overall design is the same as your first run through of the game.
That said, not everything is bad about Daylight. The final level is actually decently designed, as you can be attacked at any time, not just after collecting a set number or relics. It’s the only time there seems to be any tension in the game, but that tension is destroyed when you are given an infinite number of flares. The voice acting throughout the game is fairly well done, as well and graphically the game looks decent on the PS4, minus a few graphical glitches and noticeable frame rate drops.
Daylight is a less than decent horror game, which is a shame since Zombie Studios has created fantastic titles in their Blacklight series of games. However, Daylight feels like an attempt to jump on the horror game bandwagon. While there are a couple glimmers of brilliance, everything else reeks of unoriginality and flat out bad design. In a genre where keeping the player tense and anxious is key, Daylight is just plain boring.
SCORE: 3.5 out of 10
A code for Daylight was provided to Pixel Related for review.
I was thinking of picking this up. Looks like I’m not missing anything…