Ever since a zombiefied doberman busted through a window in the original Resident Evil, I’ve been an avid fan of the survival horror genre. Unfortunately, Daylight is a game that succeeds in the cheap scares department, and fails at basically everything else.
The premise is extremely simple, which is fortunate, because you’re dropped into the game with virtually zero explanation. You are Sarah, a girl that wakes up in an abandoned asylum with only her smartphone. With no recollection of how she even got there, you’ll guide her through the game’s procedurally generated corridors and rooms while being guided and mocked by a cryptic voice emitting from her phone.
For the first half hour or so, Daylight‘s presentation is a daunting experience. When I had no idea what I was meant to be doing, or where I was meant to be going, I walked around at a snail pace in fear of the unknown. In essence the abandoned asylum is a great horror environment, complete with unsettling noises, spontaneously moving objects, foreboding narration, and all the other trappings we’ve come to expect from a quality horror game. But too much effort was put into its atmosphere, leaving everything else appearing neglected.
The levels you’ll rummage across Daylight‘s 90-minute campaign are randomized each time you play them, but the shuffling of each maze’s rooms and hallways doesn’t make a very meaningful difference. Regrettable the basic structure of each level goes as follows: find at least five or six “remnants” and take them to a designated symbol to acquire a special artifact called a “Sigil” to open a magic barrier and continue on your way. Rinse and repeat, and then the game ends. Unfortunately during this phase, Sarah is not able to use glow sticks or flares, essentially making it a “run for your life” type of situation.
With no weapons available, Sarah has two different actions to help her escape the asylum and continue on her remnant treasure hunt: glow sticks to illuminate interactive objects where some documents might be hiding and flares to ward off the game’s only enemy – “shadow,” a shrieking, ghostly woman who serves as the game’s main source of scares. Although scary in appearance, she poses no real threat as they they burst into flames almost instantly at the sight of your flare. Besides evading “shadows,” a handful of banal puzzles have been tossed into Daylight as a weak attempt to break the monotony of the overall experience.
One of the game’s highlights is also one of its low points. Although Daylight‘s environments are procedurally generated by Zombie Studios’ algorithm, it’s no less predictable than a typical linear adventure. The game only has three or four levels to start with, and they all feel familiar; whether it’s a asylum, sewer, prison, or forest, they’re all based around a bland grey color palette, meaning that you’ll be hard pushed to distinguish one area from the other. The inherent randomized nature of the level designs also works against the atmosphere itself, as it’s easy to see when identical room builds have simply been copy-and-pasted into your path.
Aside from a few “oh s**t moments,” the game itself is so lifeless and devoid of any actual gameplay, that it’s incredibly hard to justify experiencing the adventure for a second time at all. It’s a shame to see such a promising product turn into a short, banal, and thoroughly forgettable survival horror experience.
Editor’s Note: Daylight was reviewed using a PC copy of the game.