Deadcore is much more mesmerizing than its metal name would indicate.

By Daavpuke, Posted 31 Oct 2014

Our currently popular genre of first-person games and the old platform elites don’t have a lot in common. Using both, like in Deadcore, is therefore hard to balance, since spatial awareness is different in real life, with all senses blaring, than it is in an isolated gaming environment. Still, with some hypnotic locations to go through and a clever mix of reflexes and alertness, this gorgeous game provides a challenging trial, though perfected in visual flair more than technical aptitude.

Gun in hand, the story starts in this odd voided landscape. As if in the eye of a storm, the only fragments floating around the dust clouds are the rogue panel here or there. Yet, also like this epicenter of chaos, there’s a tranquility to be found here as well. Crisp, minimalist textures construct the futuristic building blocks in the foreground, while the background is an endless ocean of undulating vapor. The long stretch into the horizon, elongated by the distorted flooring from the close first-person view, draws in the focus. It’s a blank canvas soothing enough to get lost in for ages. Deadcore’s world is downright mesmerizing.


A sense of calm will be needed, because the platform elements come in hard and fast right at the start. The simplest objective for each level is to get from point A to point B. That’s easy enough, but getting there is a different tale. A gun with limited ammo can interact with certain objects. Some items unlock new paths, others turn jump pads on or off; any other variety of obstacle management is included. Again, that sounds simple enough, but several sections are rigidly timed, which means a solid aim and constant motion are needed. This is where the skill part steps in.

Challenges in Deadcore come from pressure. Obstacles only stay activated or deactivated for a short time, so to get ahead, players have to stay mobile. In turn, the rushed pace forces the need for awareness and anticipation. Even with just a few things floating around, blocked paths need to be unscrambled in the mind’s eye quickly in passing, which is the game’s puzzle element. Remember, this needs to be done in first person, while also aiming down sights to interact with the next object. Some larger jumps can even depend on the ability to sway back and forth, shooting at targets, whilst ascending betwixt platforms. It’s definitely not a cake walk, but it wouldn’t be as captivating if it were. The calm helps to stay centered though. Just a moment gazing back into the abyss can be a relaxing release.


To diversify its skillful level design, Deadcore opens up its vast expanses to open paths. Frequently, it’s possible to choose to reach the next part of the level through several ways. If one challenge is too harsh or just seems to be out of reach, there might be another road that seems more elementary. Not only does this grant extra freedom, but it helps to expose the game’s illusion of space. Going further still, the platform title allows these ostensibly set puzzles to be slightly broken down even more. There’s usually a directed line that can be followed to complete the puzzle, but nearby rubble can also be used to hop on and break open the level design.

Anything goes, really. If there’s a ledge, there’s a way and that means that any puzzle is only limited to a character’s abilities and the imagination applied to it. For instance, a spinning wall of lasers may indicate the necessity to walk along with the spinners, but with a gun turret nearby, it’s possible to jump on the cannon and leap over the lasers altogether instead. Puzzles are mere suggestions and that adds so much to an already open game like this.

There is a dark side to this amazing ride as well, unfortunately. Specifically, Deadcore suffers from some slight technical inaccuracies that can get aggrandized by the game’s challenges. In particular, any moving platform near players can have clipping issues that cause a force respawn when caught in a block. It’s also possible to get pushed into underlying objects, like boost pads. In general, it just causes a lot of unwarranted chaos where precision is vital. It may also work out favorably, but the probability of it is more on the negative spectrum than those rare cases where it glitches through an tough part.


Another flaw stemming from its rigid pacing comes later in the game, when new capabilities are added. A gravity modifier will let characters stick to its surfaces where the field is active, which is fine, were it not that the rest of the world stays the same. It’s disorienting in itself already, but it’s only made so much worse through the heightened tempo paired to total awareness of surroundings at all times. Deadcore is unfairly demanding in its desire to both change the perception and its expectancy to have players be immediately adjusted and moving forward, completing new tasks on the fly.

When other objects are thrown in with the gravity play and there are reflex-based points in that path as well, the once calm environment turns to incredibly frustrating spikes of difficulty. What totally kills gravity sections, however, is that outside of its field, the world still reacts the same. So, nudging outside of the corner will let players abide to the new physics laws, which don’t correspond to the current direction at all and are impossible to save in a last ditch effort. Reaching a gravity section’s limit is a death sentence and given many puzzles hop between these areas, breaching through to the next platform becomes luck more than anything.

It’s eventually possible to circumvent less appealing obstacles, tie it to the usually satisfying difficulty curve and chalk it off as a one-time thing. Once completed, that section is conquered and never seen again, leaving room for the game’s brilliant parts. Sadly, there’s a much bigger hitch in the technical woes that can’t be forgiven. A game can break. It’s possible to save progress at checkpoints, which are much needed, but loading the game can remove some prompts from the game. This means, if there’s currently only one path forward, the whole level needs to be done again, impossible sections and all. Again, there is an option to just redo a portion of it, but that’s even more demanding than it was before. It’s the one thing the first-person platform game can’t wash away with pretty visuals.

There are some troubles in Deadcore. They aren’t many and there are tons of breathtaking parts in this captivating puzzle platform game, but they do prevent it from reaching the heights it would otherwise so deserve. Flaws won’t be enough to detract from just how open and multifaceted its level design is, nor how stimulating it is to play this minimalist dream world; it’s that solid. If it didn’t have technical aggravations, however, it could’ve rivaled paragon Portal for its crown. Now, it can simply stand aside it and its peers with its head held up high. That’s still a sizable honor.

Daav Valentaten, NoobFeed (@Daavpuke)

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General Information



Platform(s): PC
Publisher(s): BANDAI NAMCO Games Europe
Developer(s): 5 Bits Games
Genres: Action, Adventrue
Themes: Action, Indie
Release Date: 2014-10-17

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