Title: Dead Cells
Available On: PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Mac
Developer: Motion Twin
Publisher: Motion Twin
Genre: Rogue-lite, action-platformer
Official Site: Dead Cells
Release Date: August 7th, 2018
Where to Buy: Retail, Steam, PSN, Xbox Live
Dead Cells begins with the character hitting the ground dead. As soon as my character literally slammed onto the floor, I knew the game would offer me no assistance. I am here to follow an ever-changing path that will lead to the answers. Dead Cells places the gamer in the middle of a conundrum. Why am I trapped in a prison without a head? Honestly, I never found the answer to that puzzle. What I did discover was a love for this action-platformer game.
Rogue-lites, or roguelike games, play the same. Here’s a dungeon or map and a basic and straightforward plot; follow it to learn more. Motion Twin truly captures the essence of a classic dungeon crawl game. Dead Cells plays similar to that of Metroid, Castlevania, and Ori and the Blind Forest. The player assumes the role of a character who cannot be permanently killed. I say permanently due to the fact that after the player dies, and you will die, a lot, they return to life again at the start of the game. After meeting with whatever terrible fate it was that got them killed, the first character they come across is a knight who explains to leave this prison, you must finish the dungeon.
Completing this task is a daunting, yet welcomed, challenge. The player starts out with a sword, then chooses between either a bow or shield. Every weapon in Dead Cells can be upgraded to offer new ways to defeat foes. Players can ditch their starting sword for a set of daggers, which provide a faster way to strike down enemies. Or discover a broadsword, while slow to attack, brings down baddies much more quickly. Along the way, players will encounter and unlock other unique weapons to combat enemies. Exploration is a key component in Dead Cells. The dungeon constantly changes with each new life the player is granted upon their untimely demise.
The weapons and upgrades found throughout Dead Cells are as unique as the levels themselves. Players also get access to grenades, traps, and other types of ammunition that act on their own. In a game where exploration into the unknown is the goal, having weapons that attack enemies for you is a plus. Encountering enemies varies with each one. The only way to learn how they react to the player is to get near them. It’s this aspect that plays reminiscent to Dark Souls. Not knowing what’s on the platform below or above could lead to a deadly encounter.
The first time I died and returned to the beginning I felt utterly defeated and upset. However, as soon as I set foot into the dungeon again, everything was different. The new layout of each map breaths fresh life into Dead Cells. Instead of racing through the level to familiar areas, experiences are more unique with each death. Not only does the layout differ, but characters you interact with become involved as well.
Dead Cells is full of several dungeons with their own enemies and encounters. The level designs feature beautiful art and graphics. As the player runs by, the background features landscapes of towering pillars and monuments. Even the lighting effects add depth to the game. The sound design really drives home the tone of the game. The score features creepy discorded pieces that work well with the oppressive nature of the game. Spotted throughout the levels are hints at what transpired within the prison. To discover knowledge about the many areas the player traverses, one must explore every nook and cranny.
I found exploring added to the overall grandeur of Dead Cells. I discovered after hours of running through dungeons I no longer worried about fighting to the end, but to search for hidden clues, weapons, or gear. As I explored I noticed though it featured dour scenarios, there are plenty of comedic notes to be discovered.
What bogged down the game for me was dealing with bosses after previously having killed them. At first fighting them was rewarding, but after the umpteenth time, it felt lacking. Though the dungeons changed upon my death, the bosses remained, taunting me until they killed me or I defeated them. They are entertaining to confront, but it didn’t add value to my play through. Overall Dead Cells features four bosses each with their own mechanic and devices to give the player a run for their money.
Verdict: Dead Cells is a familiar take on action rogue-lite games but feels unfamiliar and new. The challenging dungeon designs mixed with difficult enemies and bosses makes this game a fresh take on the platforming genre. Its focus on exploration and unique twist on map layouts is what adds to its appeal. Motion Twin understands how to create a great game and hold the player’s attention.