You awaken, trapped in a strange, abandoned hospital. How did you get here? Why are you here? There are no immediate answers, only a voice in the dark, urging you to move forward. This is the world of Ps4’s latest survival-horror entry, Daylight.
Indie developer Zombie Studios’ Daylight is a psychological thriller whose initial concept is nothing new; you being trapped in some dark and scary place with things trying to kill you. However, the game does offer gamers a somewhat different take on the genre with its layout being randomized each playthrough. This means that you should get a new experience every time you play — my thoughts on this feature later. Daylight focuses a lot on jump scares, and by a lot, I mean A LOT. Jump scares are a tactic that have been used for what seems like time immemorial. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing under most circumstances, as an instant rush of adrenaline can be incomparably exciting for a good number of people. Daylight, to a degree, had some success here but, unfortunately, even that seemed to fall apart as the game went on.
The game doesn’t offer gamers much of an introduction. Your name is Sarah; you just woke up in an abandoned hospital with only your smartphone next to you and a strange voice –who oddly sounds like Vincent Price – guiding you on your way. This phone is not only your constant source of light, but also happens to serve as a mini-map, recording your every move on its screen. The game is level based with the player’s goal being to search for a series of scribbled notes and logs that are referred to as remnants. Players can make use of glow sticks, which can be found in various cupboards, drawers, and the like, which will highlight said remnants as well as objects that they can interact with. There are two types of remnants. Some are only there to give insight into the hospital’s history and they’re the only way you will find out a majority of the game’s story. The other kind of remnants progress the game, as once you’ve collected them all you’ll then be able to acquire a sigil. This sigil will then unlock a Seal of Shadows that opens up the next part of the building.
Discovering remnants will activate markings on Sarah’s arm, which in turn attract the “witch,” a shrieking, ghoulish woman who acts as the games sole enemy and main source of scares. She’s very passionate about her job, with a tendency to materialize right behind you the moment you turn around, or sometimes stare at you from across that hall. Or maybe she’s around that next corner? Your chances of running into her are linked to how many remnants you have. The more you collect, the higher your “threat meter,” which in turn determines how frequently you’re attacked. My biggest beef with the witch is that her appearances can become predictable. This is because she makes a very distinctive growl and your cell’s map will turn to static whenever she is nearby.
This won’t be a problem for everyone, as the idea of knowing that she is coming can create a sense of paranoia in some people. Unfortunately for me, this just shortened any reaction I could have had. There is, however, always a chance of her appearing unannounced; causing you to wake up any unfortunate soul that may have been sleeping (my apologies to the people that live with me). Your only weapons against the witch are flares, which will engulf her as she approaches you. The thing is that, like with the glow sticks, you can find flares hidden inside drawers or emergency boxes –abandoned hospitals are prime real estate for local raves – so the fear of running out isn’t high on the agenda.
As mentioned before, Daylight makes use of an algorithm that will randomize the layout of the map so that it is different each time you play it. While this is an interesting concept (and the reason I wanted to try the game), it, in truth, is one of Daylight’s least interesting features, and does little to either enhance the tension or promote multiple plays. The randomization really just offers you more chances to run into repeated scripted events. You walk into a room to find disheveled hospital beds, a light fixture that falls in front of you, and a wheelchair that flies across the room. You leave and walk into another room at the end of the hall. There you find disheveled hospital beds, a light fixture that falls in front of you, and a wheelchair that flies across the room.
Those kinds of random events could have caused the player to think, “Wait, wasn’t I just here?” and create the sense of confusion and being lost. The chances of that happening are nonexistent thanks to the mini-map on your phone. In this reviewer’s opinion, the game could have benefited from not including a map. This would have forced players to either memorize their movements or risk getting lost. At one point, the game has you in an open area with no walls to slow you down. It was here where I finally felt like I didn’t know where to go. Then my mini-map reminded me by highlighting key locations.
The biggest annoyance for me were Sarah’s lines. She constantly asks “who’s there?” and “what was that?” whether something happens or not. They do cause you to wonder “is something really there?”, but you soon get used to them and tone them out. Final verdict, Daylight had a decent foundation in place but ultimately failed to fully utilize it. While the witches are unsettling, they’re never a real threat. The final level drew me in with its seemingly faster pace, whereas the majority of the first half left me bored enough to run everywhere without fear or care. I only wish the rest of the game could have done the same before I became immune to its actions. I’d advised playing it at night as playing in the daylight (nuknuk) takes away from what little atmosphere there is.
Recommended for fans of: Amnesia, Condemned, Outlast, Slenderman
Brandon Ledbetter is a Graduate student at Arizona State University who would rather spend his days gaming than doing class work. When not hitting the books, he’s either listening to EDM, playing an RPG, or thinking up new characters for a novella that he hopes to one day write. You can find him on both Xbox Live and PSN or contact him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Help him cheer on Team XBRO!