I hadn’t even heard of Deadbolt when my friend Steven gave me a Steam code for the game. It would have been rude to chuck the game into the dark abyss of my Steam library without at least playing for a few minutes, so I installed the game and went to work.

Was it worth my time?

Hopoo Games released Deadbolt on March 14, 2016. And in an unprecedented turn of events, I actually played the game within the first year of its life. Deadbolt depicts the Grim Reaper as a gun wielding, trench-coat-wearing assassin who receives all of his assignments from a flame that lives in his fireplace. The game begins with the Reaper being tasked with a simple zombie assassination, but he ends up on a seemingly impossible mission to topple a drug syndicate lead by the Devil himself.

But as compelling a concept as that might be, Deadbolt‘s main attraction is the gameplay. Every mission requires the Grim Reaper to infiltrate a building, eliminate a group of enemies, and get out. However, the enemies are numerous and strong. Any given enemy may take more than one shot to kill, but you will drop after one hit. So the key to success is a balance of stealth, clever strategy, and quick headshots. In my opinion, these mechanics are finely tuned in Deadbolt. I died often… but always because I failed in one of those three areas.

Deadbolt‘s presentation is superlative. The game’s hyperviolence is played out in a stylized pseudo-16-bit pixel art. All of that is supported by Chris Christodoulou’s extraordinary soundtrack, which features an eclectic mixture of influences that—pardon my hyperbole—defies genre. I’d describe it as the atmosphere of a third-wave progressive rock band (think Porcupine Tree or Pure Reason Revolution) with breaks for either synth-soaked retrowave or trip-hop-esque chillwave. It seems like such an eclectic mixture might be a bit jarring, but it works beautifully, helping to establish Deadbolt‘s distinctive look and sound.

Thematically, Deadbolt is a dark game, but its apparent obsession with death and killing has more in common with the celebratory violence of Hotline Miami than it does with the purposeful ambiguity of Limbo. However, I don’t think the game’s intent is to leave the player with lingering question of meaning. Taken on its own terms, Deadbolt appears to be a near perfect execution (pun intended?) of the type of game that Hopoo Games set out to create: a challenging and violent game, full of personality and atmosphere.

After 11 hours, I completed Deadbolt with a sense of satisfaction. It made for a nice palate cleanser between the thematically-rich, navel-gazing game that I just finished… and the thematically-rich, navel-gazing game that I would play next. It also served as a pleasantly surprising reminder that there are extraordinary games that I’ve never heard of. There will always be some undiscovered gem, just waiting to be stumbled upon amongst the infinite expanse of the Steam marketplace. Deadbolt was a delight.

What a time to be alive!


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