I can't do it. Really. I just can't go on. Shadowy witches with glowing eyes have inexplicably popped up behind me and shrieked. Objects have fallen and made loud noises. I've gotten my character lost in the labyrinthine maze of a mental institution. After prolonged exposure to this, all of these supernatural occurrences, I've simply come to the conclusion that there's only so much of this that one critic can take, and put down my controller, most likely for good. This isn't because Daylight, the latest from former IGN staffer and part-time PSP licker Jessica Chobot, is a nerve-jangling thrill ride of a chiller. Because despite some occasional hints of goodness, it ultimately isn't.
But it is, however, a fundamentally bad game with barely any redeeming qualities to speak of. Oh, yeah, and it's boring, and somewhat broken, and... well, you'll see. Read on.
Why? Why would any developer think that this was something worth putting out on the marketplace for money, when there are dozens of other freeware titles like this that are actually better? Why would Jessica Chobot, an obviously intelligent woman (I'm not actually being sarcastic here,) think that this story, composed of the gristle from several different horror games and films, would even begin to work? On a larger, more primal level, I just have to ask why does this game even exist? Who even thought that Daylight was worth making, let alone releasing in its current state? Whoever did should seriously reconsider their life choices, because this has got to be one of the lowest points in survival horror.
Whatever plot exists here is told from the perspective of Sarah, a protagonist who quickly begins to wear on your nerves like sandpaper to skin. She's being instructed by some mysterious voice on a cell phone to explore an abandoned mental institution. In order to break different seals she finds scrawled in various rooms, she has to go and find notes detailing the lives of the people who use to inhabit the decrepit halls of the place, then take them to another room to get some important item, then take them to the aforementioned seal to progress. Oh, yes, and she's being chased by SPOOOOKY witches with glowing eyes and fluttering black hair, and if she looks at them for too long, even from a distance, she dies, then wakes up at a different spot of the institution. Rinse, repeat.
If this all sounds painfully similar, that's because the narrative is ripped off from every major Western horror game released in recent years. Slender gets aped, Amnesia gets ripped off, and Outlast, which came out last fucking year, gets rectally rooted for the framework of this game. Honestly, I'm shocked at the complete and utter lack of originality present here. It would be one thing to rip off one or two titles, but Daylight isn't content until it's leeching off of a handful of superior titles, like a parasite slaking its thirst until it becomes a grotesque imitation of the things it feeds upon. Huh. That's a scarier image than anything in the game, actually. Go figure.
Yes, on top of being unoriginal, Daylight is disappointing in how little it actually manages to scare up much of anything. To be fair, early moments manage to be pretty unnerving, and in the first parts of the game, it really feels like this could be something truly spooky and fun. Unfortunately, the rest of what I was able to sit through didn't live up to that initial promise. Pretty soon, I was starting to notice that the game was using the same tricks, ad naseum, in an attempt to scare me. Eventually, it started to get less unsettling and more annoying, until eventually I started to hate every insipid attempt to scare me. Jump scares can be used right, but here, they're either too frequent and thus bothersome, or too weak and thus laughable. All the while, Sarah keeps talking, insisting that she knows there are ghosts present, or asking if anybody is there, which is what actually undoes the experience entirely. Daylight is like that guy or girl at a party, telling a fairly mediocre joke, then insisting that it's funny for minutes and minutes until, eventually, you want to dive for the nearest alcoholic beverage to drown out the pain of this ignoramus not shutting up.
This sounds harsh, but it's absolutely true from my perspective. Zombie Studios has crafted something that practically screams "me too" at the top of its lungs, like an incessant toddler or an overly competitive significant other. Honestly, it feels manufactured to be played by people like PewdiePie; nothing here has any sort of soul or authenticity to it. Hell, even Afterfall InSanity had some sort of heart, and was kind of charming in a low-budget, B-movie kind of way. But this? This heap of a game with annoying amounts of backtracking, randomized item placement that's more obnoxious than scary, and glitches that allowed to clip outside of the game's scenery? This has no real passion behind it.
Graphically, this game is a miserable mess. It was originally meant to show off the Unreal Engine 4, being the first game to use it, but all I can see are muddied textures that routinely flicker (and not in the scary way,) constant slowdown, and laughable physics. Except for some admittedly cool lighting effects, this game really looks terrible, and often feels like a mid-cycle PS3 title. Usually, I don't care a ton about graphical fidelity, but if one of your selling points is new graphical tech, then the game better do what it says right on the tin, or it's a straight-up dishonest bullet point for advertisements.
At least the sounds fares a bit better. The music here, whatever little of it there is, is actually quite good, and manages to set the mood more effectively than anything going with the visuals. Same goes for the various sound effects, which are quite unsettling and a pretty effective way to get players to frantically jam down their sprint button and pull out flares to ward off the witch/ghost/things. I honestly wish that the sound designers behind Daylight get to try their hand in a better, more original horror title, because they've got some definite talent.
Which is more than can be said for whoever worked on the rest of this game. Daylight is a perfect example of a knock-off game, outright stealing mechanics from superior titles, cheaply emulating the setting of a much better game, and liberally taking narrative ideas behind a variety of sources then doing nothing with them. Basically, it's one of those Asylum rip-off movies, like Transmorphers or Atlantic Rim, but minus any of the cheesy charm.
Frankly, this entire title is a disgrace with very few redeeming qualities, and while the most masochistic of players may be able to suffer through perpetual backtracking and boring locales just to get the occasional good scare, the rest of us are better off waiting for the next big horror title to come along, like The Evil Within. Simply put, this game doesn't cut it, and for all of its efforts to scare, Daylight is simply too unoriginal and too unfun to recommend to anybody but the most fanatical of horror gamers.