Oh, crap. I’m in a house again
I’m always down for some sleazy horror. Okay, maybe not the film kind, since I’m not much of a movie buff, but this new trend of short-form slasher games with VHS filters and PS1 graphics I’m all about. Deadly Night by Cubyte Games is that. It is definitely that.
Deadly Night (PC)
Developer: Cubyte Games
Publisher: Torture Star Video
Released: September 2, 2022
Deadly Night follows Carol after she’s dropped off at a motel. I’m sure it isn’t difficult to guess that she’s in for a bad time. What is interesting is that you have some control over what kind of bad time you have. Regardless of what you choose, though, Carol eventually winds up in the basement of a creepy house. It’s one of those horror stories. The creepy house story. And, of course, there’s a killer there. You know what you signed up for.
While there are technically four scenes to survive through, the house is clearly the main event. In it, you have to navigate the gloom and various rooms to find a way to escape. To evade the killer as he stalks the halls, you can hide under beds and in closets. It’s maybe not the most novel of narratives, but I actually don’t have a positive way of ending this sentence. I feel that things can only go downhill from here if I keep going.
Many people come here to have sex
To be fair to Deadly Night, it pulls off its subject matter rather well. The house is well designed, even if its layout is a bit unnatural. You can always hear the killer as he is stomping around, but there is no sound difference in whether he’s above, below, or on the same floor as you. There’s a single chokepoint in the stairwell, so trying to guess whether he’s near it or not is a big part of the game.
Deadly Night also wisely takes advantage of this fact, providing moments where your actions alert the killer, as well as one moment where you have to travel quickly to your objective. There are times when you just can’t afford to wait until you know he’s off the stairs; you need to pick your moment and follow through, which can be tense and difficult.
Evading the killer isn’t all that challenging unless he wedges you into a corner. Typically, you just need to break the line of sight and get back into the closet like your parents are coming to visit. He’ll then just stand outside, breathing on the door until the varnish peels off. It’s not at all uncommon in these sorts of hidey games, but I found it hilarious nonetheless. He’ll get his masked face directly up to it and then just stand there for a while like he forgot what he was doing.
The other scenes in the game are mainly to tell the story, which isn’t all that great. Take that as you will because Deadly Night makes it known it’s supposed to be a tribute to schlocky slasher flicks. However, there seem to be a lot of missed opportunities in exploring the characters. The backstory is established, but there are a lot of glaring blanks that just get glossed over.
It’s perhaps not necessary to have a tight, cohesive plot when the obvious goal is to simply terrify. However, games like Bloodwash and Nun Massacre do a better job of establishing these things, whereas it almost seems unfinished in Deadly Night. The fact that two of the scenes don’t even involve the slasher gameplay and seem to exist entirely for storytelling makes it a little odd that there isn’t more development.
For that matter, it feels like some shortcuts were taken when it comes to designing the gameplay. There’s a fridge, for example, that won’t open because of “pressure.” And you have to wait until it equalizes before it can be opened. Anyone with a deep freezer can tell you this is an actual issue, it just feels kind of like cheating when you can’t open it until a set gameplay milestone is passed. Likewise, there are parts where you can’t interact with something until you’ve interacted with something else. An example of this is where you can’t pick up a stick until you examine a log and are told you need something for leverage.
Looks like it still works
For that matter, Deadly Night has aspirations towards replayability, but it’s not executed to the fullest extent. However, most of the deviations happen in the first chapter. Things get rearranged when you’re in the house, but I feel that playing it more than the two times I did would still be a bit much. While you might find the alarm clock in a different spot, the puzzle is the same, and I can only think of one way things can be done differently in that chapter, and it’s mostly just there to judge whether you get the good or bad ending.
The first chapter has more deviation to the point where I mostly skipped the entire thing on my first playthrough. There was later a comment made by Carol that referenced something that didn’t happen because I skipped it. Deadly Night is at least kind enough to tell you what you missed out on, so you know what to look for when you revisit.
More PS1-era nipples next time
Summing up my thoughts on Deadly Night is a bit difficult since I’m a fan of the short-form horror genre and want to encourage it to be explored further by more people. And the truth is, Deadly Night delivered on most of what I expected; it just didn’t impress as well as Bloodwash did. The mechanics weren’t as inventive as Humble’s Happy Burger Farm. The sleaze doesn’t mesh as well as it does in Puppet Combo’s own self-published work.
Deadly Night is not the best example of what the genre is capable of while at the same time being a demonstration of what it is: short experiences that take you to a simpler time in horror. It’s a worn rental store VHS encapsulated in an interactive experience. It’s lo-fi brain candy for the horror enthusiast. It knows exactly what it is, which allows it to get away with murder.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]