By: Brian Gunn
Deadbolt is the latest game from Risk of Rain studio Hopoo Games. Instead of delivering another sprawling roguelike, this time they’ve created a tight and focused stealth action title.
While Deadbolt is a side-scroller, there’s no controller support, and the reason quickly becomes apparent. An incredible amount of precision is required as the game has many instances where headshots are pretty crucial, and the zoomed out and tiny nature of the screen means those heads are very small.
Thankfully, with a mouse these feats aren’t too tough, though in the heat of battle it can become quite difficult. There is also a small annoyance in that the game uses context-sensitive actions for many interactions, so a weapon dropping in front of a vent can mean rather than using the vent as intended you instead pick up the weapon, which might mean a quick death.
Deadbolt is made in the sort of retro pixel art style that most players will have already decided if they love or hate. It is not likely to win anybody over that hates the style, as it mostly standard fare that doesn’t do a whole lot to stand out from similar titles.
It does have some fairly fun and expressive character designs, though, with clever twists on security cameras just being a severed zombie head that screams for help, and the grisly aftermath of a level is often a sight to behold.
There’s a fairly varied soundtrack from the relaxed jazz of the home base to the pulsing techno when burning drugs. It’s all generally good, though sometimes it doesn’t mesh well together.
Certain actions seem to trigger music cues, like the burning of drugs, but as they’re a mission objective and you need to avoid discovery, depending on how you do the level, the song will come in and out oddly and the tempo is lost. Sound effects are effective and provide good feedback to punctuate the silence after planning your route of attack.
Players assume the role of The Reaper in Deadbolt in a world that’s sort of a fusion of the criminal world and horror. Zombies and vampires exist, but they’re gangsters instead of unruly bloodthirsty hordes. The Reaper himself is a powerful contract killer. There’s not much more to the story besides that, with only vague setup for the onslaught players will unleash.
Each stage tasks you with making it through a level using a variety of sneaking, distractions and gunshots to accomplish a variety of objectives. It largely feels a bit like a combination of Gunpoint and Hotline Miami. Each action needs to be carefully considered as any damage means a level failure, and once enemies have a bead on you they’re fast to act.
Thankfully, players have many tools to avoid pain. The most useful of those is the ability to turn into smoke at vents and toilets and navigate levels via pipes and ducts. Not only is this a useful navigation tool, it’s one that makes for some quick exits.
Got a room full of four zombies? Come out of the vent, shotgun blast one or two and hop back in to revel in the chaos. Causing chaos is one of the game’s most enjoyable elements, as you surprise one corner of a building and then appear on the opposite end to end a poor fool’s life.
Deadbolt includes some fairly clever enemy progression and design. The first handful of levels is pretty standard, with normal enemies and a few bullet sponge brutes in the mix. Eventually though you’ll get to deal with zombies that have their heads in a different location than their body, taking away the easy headshot you relied on.
Vampires will appear on ceilings so beating someone to death on a roof becomes riskier as they will hear it. There are also fun ideas like security cameras just being severed zombie heads that scream when they see you.
One element that may put people off is that the game is often incredibly difficult. There are also no real checkpoints, so any mistakes made, even if it’s after clearing 90 percent of a huge map, are soul crushing. It’s also a bit on the short side, though there is Steam Workshop support for getting extra maps.
Deadbolt is a unique little blend of previous games that manages to have its own identity as well. Come to it prepared to die, secure in the knowledge that with some planning and precision you’ll find it a mission worth accepting.