Deadeus opens with a rather macabre piece of pixel art – a skeleton wearing tattered clothes with a circle carved in its forehead. Under the image warning: “This game contains themes that may be disturbing to some players.” One might think, “How can a Game Boy game possibly present something that disturbing?”, but quickly into my playthrough I was presented with an engrossing story that did irk me quite profoundly.
Deadeus begins with a haunting premonition. You play as a young boy who’s terrorized at night by dreams foretelling of the end of the world in three days. The striking visuals in these nightmares boldly set up the tone of the game. Deadeus’s story explores the occult, apocalyptic prophecy, and paganistic rituals that could make even seasoned horror fans squeamish.
The gameplay itself is surprisingly deep for an earlier GB Studio game. The nightmare that sets up the game also plays into its main mechanic. Something catastrophic is going to happen in three days, and you have that deadline to figure out how to stop it. Similar to Majora’s Mask, the events within Deadeus change day over day, and some story points can’t be accessed until certain tasks are completed. Instead of the Groundhog Day like game loop however, time only moves forward and you can play at your own pace choosing when to sleep to progress to the next day.
The story presented in Deadeus itself is a challenge. Figuring out the mystery of these prophetic visions, and a possibly sinister plot within the town are what drive the player to play through the game multiple times. There are eleven endings in all (some of them can be considered fail states) and while the game could be completed very quickly, it’s the unravelling of the story and decoding the various paths that create an overall puzzle to solve.
It’s clear that a lot of care and time went into creating Deadeus. The excellent pixel art, the sprawling map and the in-depth puzzle-like story all add up to an engaging experience that understandably made it one of the more popular releases created with GB Studio. The game’s themes aren’t for everyone, and I certainly felt a bit irked by some moments within the game, but if you enjoy the horror genre this is one you don’t want to miss.
The creator of the game, -IZMA-, took some time to chat with us about his experience making the game, read it here if you want to learn more about what went into Deadeus. The game is available to download for free at https://izma.itch.io/deadeus.
Audio Engineer, Mac Technologist and Video Game Developer. Managing Editor of GBStudio Central. (he/him)