I've been an enthusiast of the horror genre ever since I laid hands on Eternal Darkness for the GameCube. Although not a fair comparison to many survival horror games since, I’ve understood what it takes for a game to creep under your skin and leave a lasting impression. Daylight, unfortunately, is not one of those games.
Daylight manages to hit every generic horror trope in a less-than-meaningful manner and with limited mechanics. Within the three hours of gameplay I did manage to find some scares, but they were few and far between and rarely left me wanting more.
Daylight PC [reviewed], PlayStation 4)
Developer: Zombie Studios
Publisher: Zombie Studios
Release: April 29, 2014
The player awakens as Sarah, a young woman trapped inside an abandoned hospital with a smartphone conveniently at her side. A creepy man barks instructions and vague allusions to her past through the phone, which also acts as a map and a light. Glow sticks can be collected and used for light and double as a basic hint system, casting a soft green glow to highlight item containers or puzzle mechanisms. Flares are the only other usable items and are used to fend off the creepy witch ghost thing that haunts you throughout the game.
The goal is to make it through each level without getting too close to creepy witch ghost thing, who I am now dubbing Miss Ghost. Miss Ghost is deadly and can appear at any time, more often so as Sarah collects “remnants” -- notes and articles scattered about the levels. The mechanics are similar to Slender; the more remnants that are collected, the higher the threat of meeting Miss Ghost.
Once all of the remnants have been found, the strange man over the phone instructs Sarah to collect a “sigil” -- basically a creepy token like a busted up bible or a haunted teddy bear -- and bring it to the gate to unlock the next area. 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. I appreciated this from a horror perspective -- however, this feeling waned after I noticed that running right past Miss Ghost wasn't much of a problem at all.
The game alternates between these “sigil” areas, and more laid-back puzzle levels where the goal was to get to the next area of the island. I didn't find these levels too engrossing as most of the tasks involved moving boxes around slightly or finding a lever to move past a barrier. That coupled with the fact that the glow sticks basically told you where everything was, there was really no challenge here.
The overall atmosphere of Daylight was certainly chilling. The lighting was spot on - whenever Sarah put down her phone to bust open a new glow stick, the entire area would grow scarily dim. In true jump-scare fashion, the game would often have various items fly off the wall or unleash disturbing sounds at random. Occasionally Sarah would black out, and in an instant the game would transport me to a creepy hallway starring Miss Ghost. Though short, feeling properly creeped out was the high point of the game.
Sadly, the rest of Daylight was lacking. Miss Ghost overstayed her welcome midway through the game, I had become immune to her scares and eventually just stopped using flares for fun. Even the plot couldn't compel me to care -- the remnants weren't particularly interesting, and reading them felt like I was taking a class on Horror 101. I also found certain mechanics to be annoying -- the fact that I never really ran out of glow sticks or flares enough to feel panicked, Sarah’s constant whining of the same three phrases over and over again, the autosave functionality not working properly at times...the list goes on.
Daylight does however have an interesting concept up its sleeve, besides the randomly generated levels. The game also integrates with Twitch, allowing viewers to enter commands and create spooky sounds or other events for the player. I wasn't able to test this feature out, but I can only imagine the havoc that Dtoiders can wreak on our Twitch channel.
Overall I felt as if Daylight was made as a jump-scare machine with a loosely tacked-on plot. I never felt invested in Sarah or cared much for the mysterious man rambling through her phone. In fact, I was more concerned with getting Miss Ghost off my back so she’d stop screaming, more so out of annoyance than fear. Daylight would have benefited from a fresh set of spooks rather than intermittent scares and muddy plot lines, but at the end of the day if you’re looking for a cheap thrill you've found it.