Dying for Daylight (2011) Review

Casual games are a great way to pass the time during short breaks or as gateway games for non-gamers. Dying for Daylight is one of the genre’s better offerings. It’s atmospheric, has memorable characters and sometimes challenging puzzles. Lack of clarity in some parts and a few blemishes in presentation mar the overall package, but this casual game is still solid fun all the way through for as long as it lasts.

Dying for Daylight is based on the Sookie Stackhouse vampire series written by Charlaine Harris, whose work inspired the television series True Blood. In Dying for Daylight players take on the role of Dahlia, a modern vampire with a sultry voice and a sassy attitude, who is featured in many of Harris’ short stories. Here, Dahlia learns of a mysterious Sun Potion, which allows vampires to walk around in the day time and she decides that she must have it – if only to be able to shop at high-end fashion and jewelry retail outlets. Unfortunately for her, Dahlia isn’t the only person looking for the potion and her competition is as deadly as they are ruthless. Dying for Daylight is part one of a two-part game and features four episodes.

At its core, Dying for Daylight is a series of puzzles presented across a wide variety of largely static screens. Players navigate the game world using the pointer that helpfully alerts players to points of interest or transition spots, depending on the pointer icon. Puzzles consist mostly of simple item hunts where the player is presented with a screen littered with bric-a-brac and Dahlia must find specific items. The majority of the remaining puzzles are logic-based, requiring players to achieve a goal by putting items that Dahlia finds to proper use. There are also a few color- and outfit-matching games to add variety.

For the most part, the puzzle difficulty level is geared perfectly for the target audience. The item hunts are detailed enough and covered with so many items that no one will simply walk through them. On the other hand, the player will have to revisit many of the same locations and play the same item hunt repeatedly and Dying for Daylight doesn’t place items in new locations on-screen. So a player with a good memory will find the difficulty of these sections diminishing over time. The logic puzzles are intuitive and straightforward most of the time, but there are rare occasions that will leave players literally puzzled. For instance, there’s a door with a complex lock that plays a different musical tune depending on how the unique tumblers are set. Unfortunately, the player doesn’t realize that music is part of the puzzle because Dahlia immediately talks over the music playing to let the player know he or she set the tumblers incorrectly when the player inevitably guesses on the first try. Other times, if the player doesn’t notice a small change on screen, he or she may not realize that an action just made something happen, forcing the player to drag the pointer over every aspect of the screen, hunting for the pixel that will move the game forward. Thankfully, these moments are few and far between and if the player is seriously stumped, then there’s a helpful hint function that will guide the player along. The hint option is set on a timer to prevent the player from simply clicking it over and over again.

The best aspect of Dying for Daylight is definitely the presentation. From the player’s first moments in the game, he or she will be sucked into the world. The artwork on the individual screens is beautiful to look at and is richly detailed. The constant night and eerie locales, including a pig farm, a Vampire Quarter in New Orleans and a lonely harbor, definitely create an atmosphere that lends itself to cautious investigation. As wonderful as the visuals are, it’s the music that will raise hairs and delight the senses. The composers definitely captured the unspoken horror that only a spooky and sometimes demented soundtrack can.

Unfortunately, all of the great facets of the presentation also highlight the few flaws of the game. The voice acting is sometimes atrocious. While Dahlia is fine to listen to, some of the supporting cast don’t deliver their lines correctly, stressing the wrong word in sentences. They also affect unbelievable accents that will most likely have players fast-forwarding through their dialogue. Also, the written speech doesn’t always match what the characters say, but these criticisms are nitpicky at best.

Depending on how seasoned the player is or how often he or she relies on the hint function, a player could get through Dying for Daylight part one in roughly a day and a half if the game was played consistently. The most casual of gamers might approach the game a little more sparingly and could practically stretch the game time out to a week or more. The problem is that Dying for Daylight is surprisingly well put together and players will be hard pressed not to power through each episode just to see what happens next. That’s a good problem to have.