Dead Cells brings back many memories of some my favourite games from the Castlevania and Metroid series, which is expected due to it being heavily inspired by those games and being coined as a “roguelike-metroidvania hybrid video game”. Dead Cells isn’t quite as simple as getting from point A to point B, to beat this game you have to master the combat and learn how to navigate the castle in the most efficient way possible. In Dead Cells, there are no checkpoints, which means every encounter may be your last, no matter how big or small. This may sound alarming to some, but every time you play you’ll (hopefully) get deeper into the castle, gaining more Cells (Upgrade Points), coins for purchasing items and abilities. The only thing is that these too are perishable, you do gain permanent upgrades as you progress through the game, but items like cells, coins and weapons are not safe without the right mutations to lessen that damage blown by each death.
The game controls are tight and very responsive, combat flows well and I never really feel cheated by an enemy when they successfully kill me, as described on the games website, its very much a learning pattern of “Kill, Die, Learn, Repeat”. Every time you play, you’ll learn more, gain more permanent upgrades and as a result become stronger and more equipped to beat the game. Obviously due to the type of game that Dead Cells is and the fact that the castle is ever-changing, this journeys time will differ between games based on how they play the game, I feel that this is quite refreshing as no two peoples journeys will be identical. Not only that but it gives the game a great deal of replay-ability, well as long as you enjoy games of this style, if you’re looking for game with a liner experience then Dead Cells isn’t likely going to be up your street. I for one don’t mind these styles of games, when they are done well and Dead Cells definitely fits into that category. Dead Cells was an absolute pleasure to play and I thoroughly enjoyed my time with it, I’m honestly a sucker for tight platforming, intense combat, exploration focused games and Dead Cells has certainly scratched that itch I had.
At first I wasn’t sure if I would be fond of the whole permadeath approach that was taken, as normally it can be quite daunting to lose all of your hard gained equipment and goods upon being defeated but Dead Cells nails it by implementing the permanent upgrades and mutations that give you hope in your darkest moments. At first, each death is brutally punishing, but as time goes on and you become stronger and better equipped the punishment of death becomes less painful as some of the permanent upgrades you can earn give you better weapons upon re-spawning thus giving you a better chance of survival. Not only that but some of the upgrades give you the means to traverse and access areas and or routes that would not be realistically achievable from the get go, this includes creating climbable vines, wall running and much more. Initially the fear of death pushes you to get better and react quicker, unfortunately you will find that sometimes it is a case of trial and error and you’ll be bested a few times before figuring out certain patterns of enemies and bosses, but ultimately this makes it even more rewarding when you finally beat an area or boss after struggling with it before. Additionally, some of the mutations can give you extra health, an extra life and better damage for certain weapon types making things somewhat easier as you progress.
Dead Cells is a gorgeous game to look at and I love how much attention to detail has went into this game, from the characters and enemies to the environments, everything is bursting with life, colour and detail. The game handles really well and is quite easy to pick up, but as usual, hard to master. The controls are tight and I never really felt like the controls themselves were an issue if I found myself falling to my death or into a bunch of spikes by accident… deep down I just knew I had to get better. Although the death can be quite punishing, it’s often more of a lesson, it’s the game telling you what essentially works and what doesn’t work, how quickly you need to react to dodge an attack or an obstacle and even how to predict how enemies will react to you… it’s all part of the experience and its quite a rewarding one at that.