They don’t call it the criminal underworld for nothing. In Deadbolt, the dead walk the earth and all manner of ghouls and ghosts haunt our mortal realm, hiding in the most unsavory corners of modern life. They run strip clubs, deal drugs, and smuggle weapons. It doesn’t matter if you’re a lowly zombie grunt or the highest vampire crime lord, because the reaper is coming for you.
And the reaper doesn’t play nice.
Deadbolt puts you in charge of the avatar of Death himself, a firearm proficient, trenchcoat wearing, cat-loving take on the Grim Reaper who is always up against immeasurable odds. While enemies usually take more than one shot from most weapons to down, the reaper will die in a single hit. To avoid an untimely return to the afterlife, you’ll have to make the most of the reaper’s unique set of skills.
Not only is he surprisingly skilled at using any type of weapon he can get his bony fingers on, the Reaper is able to quickly transport around levels via turning into smoke and going through pipes and vents. More often than not, gunfights become a hectic ordeal of jumping throughout the map to find new weapons or get a new angle at your foes, and when everything comes together, it’s quite satisfying. I’ve never played a game that can make something as crude as causing a vampire to explode into chunks via bursting out of his toilet seem so stylish.
However, it’ll usually take more than just some fancy travel and a quick trigger finger to clear a level. Distraction and misdirection are equally important, and I found alerting enemies to my presence in one area before quietly moving to another to be quite the useful skill. The ability to knock on doors and trigger alarm clocks means that you basically have a sandbox of death at your fingertips, and you can take out enemies through whichever means you want.
Between levels, you can exchange the souls of those you killed to Charon the Ferryman, where you can exchange the souls you’ve reaped for new primary and secondary weapons. However, considering that many of these weapons run out of ammunition fairly quickly, the difference between a silenced shotgun and a revolver isn’t felt nearly as much as I hoped it would. It’s especially disappointing when you find out that the most expensive weapon in Deadbolt, the Reaper’s scythe, is very underwhelming and underpowered.
Underpowered weapons are the last thing you want in some of the final levels, where enemies are unflinching bullet sponges who can (and will) down you in a single strike. Teleportation would help alleviate this problem, but entering a vent isn’t instant, and you can still be gunned down before you even fully process the mess you just stumbled into. The level gimmicks don’t make it any easier, and some of the more frustrating experiences I had were times when I was avoiding snipers, maneuvering around traps, or racing against the clock. Thankfully, these are mostly single level affairs, so I could always move on to another straightforward romp.
Of course, like the developer’s previous title Risk of Rain, the presentation is top-notch. Despite the sprites being somewhat simplistic, they’re all very slick, and helped by good character design all around. However, the music is what really steals the show, consisting of blues, techno, and everything inbetween. It’s one of the few video game soundtracks I can see myself listening to even completely isolated from the game itself.
Throughout my time with Deadbolt, I may have struggled with certain segments and a few nasty shootouts, but it’s hard for me to pinpoint a time I was actually upset with the game. It achieves that perfect balance of punishment and reward. A game that constantly knocks you down, but it’s just such a blast that it keeps you wanting to get back up and give it another shot.
Deadbolt was reviewed on Steam with a copy purchased by the reviewer.
Deadbolt isn't the fairest game on the market, but it always keeps you coming back for more.