Daylight Review: A Nyctophobiac’s Worst Nightmare
For those who have an overwhelming fear of the dark, I heed you this warning: do not play Daylight. But, if you love survival horror games, then you’re screwed, because I wouldn’t recommend to miss this one.
Although it may seem ironic, Zombie Studios’ latest survival horror title causes players to ache for the light in an asylum encompassed by the dark. Players follow the story of Sarah, a woman who has mysteriously awoken to find herself alone in Mid Island Hospital. Sarah, seemingly alone, begins to hear a man’s voice instructing her to find the secrets of the hospital through notes called ‘Remnants’, which range from personal notes to patient records. With nothing besides her phone containing a map of the hospital, to start, Sarah must progress forward to find answers as to why this hospital seems familiar, and essentially discover a way out. The only tools players will possess are glow sticks, flares, and your cell phone.
In order to find remnants, players must use their glow sticks to search for luminous markings on different objects—which is an indication that such object will possibly contain remnant or resource. Take caution, though, once all remnants in area have been collected, the threat level increases, and beings lurking the halls will appear more often due to the markings these ‘notes’ leave on your body. This is where flares come in. These ‘beings’ will disappear once a flare is lit, and will keep you safe. Once the beings have vanished, put your flare away, because (just like glow sticks) seeing that these resources are scarce, you’ll want to be a saver. After all the remnants have been collected, a ‘Sigil’ will appear (such as a Teddy Bear or Scissors), and you must deliver the sigil to the ‘Seal of Shadows’, which unlocks a new section of the hospital.
In order for Sarah to have any chance at escaping, she must continue this process several times. Although I just briefed the gameplay aspect of this title, I don’t think I can emphasize enough that to call Daylight ‘terrifying’ is an understatement. The multitude of how immersive this title is, is shown through your screams. Players feel as if they really are Sarah, and as if they are living through this horrendous experience. Sarah seems to be aware of what is going on around her–she’s responsive, and players can first-hand experience the dread she’s feeling. Cosmetically, Daylight is nothing extraordinary, and the character design is nothing all that impressive, but where it lacks, it makes up for acoustically. Daylight’s terror is (for the most part) found in its music and sound effects. The sounds of indistinct whispering, the patter of feet running, the scurrying across dirty floors, and the distant screams are what puts players on edge.
We fear what we cannot see and/or understand. The way developers choose to have music intensify in certain areas, and cease completely in others will cause your heart to race and eyes widen. Obviously the creepy women in dirty night gowns will freak players out a bit too, but it’s the suspense that gets our adrenaline to pump. After a while, you begin to notice that a lot of these noises you hear become..recycled and repetitive. Although they still put you on edge, they become half expected in some scenarios. The hospital itself is designed like one giant maze—you will get lost, and that’s the point. While players search for resources, remnants, and a way out, they’ll find themselves going in circles, but not by any means overwhelmingly.
When you walk into a room and a faucet turns on, or a wheel chair moves, it all plays into the terror the game is eliciting from you. Additionally, this game has new content generated through each play-through. So, every time you restart, the layout will be different, remnants will be in new locations, and these beings won’t pop out in the same places—all ensuring the element of surprise is in the opposing hands. This, unfortunately, comes at the expense of longevity in a single playthrough – you could be disappointed to find out that the game can be completed in 1.5/2 hours, and while there are reasons to replay it, it still seems a bit too low considering the price tag.
Overall, I would say that Daylight’s shortcomings are overshadowed by the way this game scares the absolute crap out of the player. This game is one of the few that stay true to the genre, while reviving it in the same instance. My advice to prospective players: run.