We know and love Atlus for publishing our favorite Japanese games. But, in recent years, Atlus has done more than just localize and release foreign games we’ve watched from afar in North America. It’s also dabbled with indie affairs. Daylight is the result of such dabbling, but this Slender: The Arrival-esque maze probably won’t be as beloved as other Atlus releases like Conception II and Dragon’s Crown.
Why do we go to these places?
Daylight stars a woman named Sarah. She wakes up in a strange facility, which we later learn is New Kipling’s hospital/penitentiary. She has strange, maze-like markings carved into the flesh of her left arm, which throb and glow when supernatural discoveries are made. Her only asset is a smartphone that acts as a flashlight, otherworldly alert system, and GPS. She’s all alone, although the voice of a strange man who seems to know more than he’s telling chimes in to order her around. Her goal is to collect various scraps of information hidden around this beaten down place and escape.
In comparison, the psychiatric-ward-turned-jail is much more interesting. Actually, I think it may have been a standard hospital, then looney bin, then finally a place for criminals, but it’s pretty difficult to keep straight. Especially with the way information was doled out. What we do know is that it is a very bad place, strange things have been happening there for years, patients and staff all took to self-harm, and Sarah must be a lunatic to set foot in there.
Grab the goods, find the Sigil, race for the rune.
Sarah is at this unholy institution to find information for the sinister man that calls every once in a while to check in on the progress of her search. Fortunately, most scraps of paper are nicely highlighted and stick to walls via glowing symbols. Others are hidden away in desks and cabinets, perhaps alongside glowsticks and flares. Glowsticks are used to cast a wide, green glow over an area and make things that can be interacted with glimmer with maze-like patterns. Flares, on the other hand, scare away ghosts that might appear to ruin your day.
However, neither can be used once Sarah begins her escape. Each region of the hospital has a Sigil Room and a Rune Door. Once a Sigil is grabbed, the supernatural is drawn to Sarah and she loses the ability to use glowsticks or flares. She then as to get to the Rune Door to proceed to the next area of Daylight as quickly as possible, before she’s attacked.
And that’s pretty much everything that happens throughout Daylight. Sarah comes to an area, searches for papers, finds a Sigil, and races for the Rune. Sometimes, box pushing, switch tripping, and climbing sections are thrown in, but they never deter from the main, fetch quest focus of the game. It adds a sense of tedium and consistency to the affair. Even though the game is procedurally generated, you’re always going through the same motions.
In order to help Daylight seem even more scary, it has that whole found footage thing going for it. The first person view makes it feel like you’re there, and Sarah is the typical horror movie heroine. She isn’t making sensible decisions, she’s actually calling out to the things that probably want to kill her to see if she’s there, and generally bumbling around in the darkness. The comparison almost goes too far, though, as the asylum maze is populated with random junk that might suddenly impede her progress, forcing her to wander around corners and get the player all discombobulated.
However, if you want to play Daylight and be truly scared, then you shouldn’t go with the easy difficulty level. Yes, players can choose ahead of time how challenging this thriller will be. When playing alone, I went with the normal difficulty, started seeing ghosts right away, and only acquired about 3 flares. When my friends and I joined together to tackle Daylight, we discovered the ability to alter the challenge, went with easy, and practically breezed through the first two areas. We always had at least 4 flares, and kept finding more we had to abandon. We only saw the ghost once in the first three areas, and it was only after the third area that things started truly scaring us. So there’s quite a discrepency between the easy and normal difficulties, and I’d suggest even amateurs or people easily scared jump right into normal.
Though, my biggest problem with Daylight is the text. The font used is just too small. Not only that, it’s often difficult to read. I played on first a 19″ HDTV, then a 32″ HDTV at a friend’s. In both cases, the various notes providing background and lore had some of the hardest to read text I’ve ever seen in a video game, and my friends and I would take turns leaning towards the TV in the second instance, reading aloud vital insight into the hospital/prison we were forced to explore. When such documents are so vital, should have had Sarah read them aloud.
Long, winding, and only scary under certain conditions
The thing is, Daylight feels like a giant fetch quest. Which isn’t too terrible, given that many horror games, like Fatal Frame and Silent Hill, rely heavily on the concept of going in, getting/finding out something, and getting out repeatedly. The problem is, with Daylight there isn’t much to do beyond looking around, getting a “sigil,” then running to the door with a rune on it. Any exposition offered in between is hidden in the tiniest flavor text ever. While the occasional puzzle to solve and keep moving forward is appreciated, Outlast is a much better choice for PS4 owners looking for a quick, genuine scare. Still, I will admit that Daylight did successfully scare my friends and I a handful of times, but we did also eventually quit out of boredom.