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Daylight PS4 Review: take a note and run

on 1 May 2014

Put on your running shoes and stock up on glow sticks and flares, because Zombie Studios has opened the doors to its abandoned, tumbledown hospital. So if you happen to be a pronounced masochist then suit up, because the institution’s long, dark, ghost-stricken hallways are calling your name. With dilapidated walls and wheelchairs galore, Daylight joins the latest movement of survival horror bred advocates and invites you to uncover the mystery behind its death-ridden hospice. There are many dangers lurking in every corner of this PlayStation 4 fright fest, but does it have the zeal to scare the daylight out of horror veterans alike, or is it just as familiar as it is predictable? 

Daylight puts you in the shoes of a young woman that wakes up in a hospital with a serious case of amnesia, unknowing of how or why she got there. You awaken to the voice of an ominous man – your trusty narrator  – who flaunts you with mystifying poetics and instructs you to move onward, indicating that he knows more about you than you do. Surely, you’re given a cell phone that serves as your communicator and permanent source of light. More importantly, it plays the role of your map, which steers you in the direction of finding the many notes – or remnants – that dole out the exposition and drive the story forward.

Familiar? Immediately you’ll notice that Daylight is not a great deal different from other games that are currently lingering in the shadows of the cult genre. Much like Amnesia: The Dark Descent and Outlast, the game relies on you to find notes that dish out the bread and butter of the story, but unlike its older peers, it solely relies on this method as a means for progressing with the campaign. You’ll collect a required number of remnants, usually six, which will then unbind the sigil that you’ll need to open a magically barred door that takes you to the next part of the chapter. From there you just rinse and repeat, and while there are puzzles, they lack intricacy and thought, only requiring you to move a box or to turn on the power to get X and Y door open. 

In this respect, the game suffers from the dreaded note-collecting syndrome, and it dulls the experience in a way that makes the game too predictable. To alleviate this though, Zombie Studios worked hard to incorporate procedurally generated levels. This is a nice touch that adds replay value to the already short campaign, which clocks in at around two hours long, but it doesn’t feel random enough to make an effective impact. The hallways you cast around are all too recognizable in post-playthroughs with the only real difference being the placement of rooms and collectibles. Sure, your sense of direction becomes unpredictable, but then you realize that you have to collect another set of remnants, only in a newly fabricated labyrinth. It’s a double-edged sword in that it’s both fresh and frustrating.

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