1. Never Has a Game Scared the Shit out of Me so Much
The first time I was ever scared by a video game was in 1994, playing The 7th Guest for the first time. It was late night in my dark bedroom at my parent's home (I was 16 at the time), a pair of headphones cloaking the sound from the ears of the parents who thought I was asleep. Old Man Stauf was teasing me with a riddle which culminated with him screaming directly in my ears, sending me falling out of my chair, the headphone cord nearly pulling my PC off the desk, the noise informing my parents of my late night gaming session.
No game has quite frightened me like that since, until I started playing Daylight. No matter what criticisms I have for it, the fright factor exponentially increased the amount of fun I had while playing.
Unlike recent releases that try to capitalize on scares like Outlast and Amnesia, Daylight plays the subtle card to perfection. While the game follows a pattern of rather safe exploration sessions followed by more tense and dangerous item gathering portions, at no point is your sanity safe. Many times it lulls you into a false sense of calm just before scaring the piss out of you. Even when Daylight was at its most benign, goosebumps still covered my arms. I don't want to spoil any surprises, but the scares in Daylight are more than worth the price of admission and the increased amount of laundry you'll need to do.
2. The Music Is as Haunting as the Ghosts
In most survival horror games, when it comes to music, less is more. The clichéd high-pitched vibrato of violins usually signals your impending doom, while the rest of the action is filled with less than memorable tunes. The soundtrack in Daylight has a much more distinctive sound which sets it apart from its peers.
It can still be frightening, but it's also hauntingly beautiful at times, particularly when exploring the history of the hospital in relative safety. Sure, some of the typical horror game music conventions are still there, but the music isn't a distraction in the slightest, and adds both beauty and tension in perfectly balanced amounts.
3. Infinite Potential for Horror
At between two to three hours of game play in the story, it would be very easy to write off Daylight as a game not worth the investment. Thankfully, the developers have provisioned for this, making each game experience randomly generated and unique. In the two times I've completed the game, there were similarities, but for the most part, each experience had me exploring some different sections of the hospital, finding new clues, and exploring mazes which, while having the same aesthetic, were unique in layout. Over repeated plays, the frights seem to lose their potency, but I'm sure taking some time away from playing will bring back their strength when I decide to play again.
4. Voyeurism at its Finest
In recent months, the copyright demons have been raining down fire and brimstone on places like YouTube. Let's Play videos, reviews and the like have been removed in record numbers with no end in sight. Atlus and Zombie Studios have a different take on sharing gameplay: they encourage it. It's this encouragement that adds a whole new level of fun to Daylight.
Built into the game is support for Twitch.tv live game streaming. While it's relatively simple these days to stream your gameplay, Daylight brings a whole new level to the game by giving your viewers the opportunity to interact with your game via the chat window. Someone typing "meow" in the chat window could cause a cat to shriek in-game. To add to the fun, no list of commands is being made available; observers will just have to figure out creative ways of screwing with broadcasters through trial and error. It's hard to say what in-game events were caused by the game or by my stream viewers, but some of the sounds I heard included screams, whispers, cats, clanking cans, slamming doors, and even what sounded like a Metal Gear Solid alert noise...or maybe it was all in my head.
I'd be lying if I said Daylight was a great game, even if there are some excellent moments. The game itself, while borrowing from ancestors like Eternal Darkness, The 7th Guest and others, really isn't particularly groundbreaking, aside from some of its unique features like Twitch interactivity and randomly generated maps. Thankfully the game doesn't have to be groundbreaking to be a hell of a good time. What Daylight lacks in polish, writing and ingenuity, it makes up for with the experience. It's very similar to Outlast, but the subtlety off the horror, the genuinely creepy mood of the game and the randomized levels make Daylight a slightly superior product., This truly is a terrifying game, and that fear-induced fun (and the randomly generated levels) is what will have me coming back for more, that is, once the rest of the extra laundry is finished.
Wednesday night join me for a live stream of the first hour of the game, 11pm EST at TwitchTV and yes, Twitch commands will be on.
Previously By Jason Helton