Dead Cells Review

Dead Cells is a new roguelike Castlevania-esque game that has just released today, and we can honestly say it’s pretty darn good. From the humor invoked through the main headless Prisoner character, to the procedurally generated rooms it’s certainly a fun 2D platformer that brings the new with the old styles.

There’s a Story?

Dead Cells really doesn’t have a full-length plot where the character is going for a ‘goal’. The story is given to the gamer very minimally, and the only real reason for playing is for the fun of the game and to obtain all the items for The Collector. This and pure determination is the real force of the game, bringing you back for all the runs.

Though there is no real plot, it’s explained to the gamer/Prisoner that they are brought back to life after every death, and that the island in which they are on is a living organism that changes over time; explaining the procedurally generated rooms. There are also interesting details brought from interacting with the environment, such as inspecting a corpse, reading writing on the walls, and listening to a fellow prisoner who is being held captive and asks you to help them.

Probably the most remarkable part of the Dead Cells story is how the woman knight in the beginning is found dead later on. The reason this is so remarkable is simply due to the fact she guides the Prisoner in the beginning, explaining why he keeps coming back, how he has no head, and discusses The Collector briefly.

Weapons and Items

As you would expect with any 2D platformer/adventure game, it’s really hard. Dead Cells was certainly created to test your patience, reflex, and ability to spec your items and weapons minimally as they are randomly generated/given. Though they are randomly given, the items have random effects and they range including:

  • Swords/Dual Blades (sometimes with elemental effects)
  • Shields
  • Bow and Arrows (with elemental effects)
  • Traps
  • Bombs (with elemental effects)
  • Shooting Turrets

While three items are randomly given at the beginning of the run (sword, shield, and bow); the Prisoner can unlock new items by bringing blueprints to The Collector, and using cells (currency from killing enemies) to unlock new items. There is also another currency that’s gold used for buying ‘mutations’ that give various bonus stats to the Prisoner through that current run.

Another type of item that can be purchased throughout the game are runes, that give the Prisoner more abilities to interact with the environment. Some of these runes include teleportation to statues, tickling plants to grow vines, and accessing challenger locations. These expand the dungeon to give new locations and access more enemies and rewards.

Note that when the Prisoner dies during a run, all cells in their inventory, alongside un-activated blueprints are removed from their inventory. The only things that stay are activated blueprints, runes, and unlocked weapons that can be found throughout the game.

Gameplay and Monsters

There are numerous types of enemies that the Prisoner faces through Dead Cells, zombies, undead archers, grenadiers, shieldbearers, runners, scorpions, and ‘elite’ enemies that are mini-bosses. With these are also brought reward doors that have expire over a certain amount of time, and challenge doors where you can face difficult monsters and environments for generous rewards.

Generally, the purpose for playing Dead Cells is for the challenge. The game poses many enemy threats, but is extremely enticing to continually play to collect all the items, and see the numerous levels.

The Small Details Matter

Though Dead Cells is certainly geared towards playing, and feeling good when you win; Motion Twin has included some really amazing details that can be hard to miss. For one, some of the items in the game come with their own description. Not every game gives their weapon personal details, especially when the player-base cares more about the stats and fighting than the lore. As an example, below are the starter weapons with their descriptions:

While not every weapon has a description, some of the more entertaining ones are:

The Drawbacks

Although Dead Cells is a really good game, it has a few drawbacks that take from the playability. Now these could simply be my own opinion, but they include:

  • Procedural Generated Levels – Running into dead-ends, similar locations, and repetitive
  • Low on Plot – Plot is minimal, and not as straight-forward as I would have liked
  • Lack of Explanations – There is really no clear explanations on what the plants, statues, and doors are if you don’t already have the rune

The Bonuses

Considering the drawbacks, Dead Cells has many great benefits that make the game thoroughly entertaining. These include the graphics, soundtrack, and fluid controls. The classic graphics of the game is very nostalgic, but the sprites have many upgraded graphics that enhance their moving and reactions. As for the soundtrack, it’s VERY metroidvania, and gets you in the mood to slash your way methodically through the level. Now to the controls, this is the best part. Dead Cells was designed to be played with a controller and this is very true. Dead Cells is very fluid in their controls and layouts using the bumpers and triggers, alongside the normal buttons.

Aside from the gameplay bonuses, Motion Twin has included a Normal Mode, Streamer Mode, and ability to change the food designs in the game. The streamer mode in-particular gives Twitch viewers access to the game where they can add more monsters and give the Prisoner bonuses. Alongside this is the option to change the food designs to fruit, baguette, and even Castlevania-esque. The game is certainly made to be played on Twitch, bringing viewers more interaction with the game.

When playing Dead Cells, one thing to note is that it’s completely casual gameplay. The game can be picked up and played for a small amount of time, and due to the procedural generation the map is never something that must be remembered. If anything the game is so addicting to play it turns into hours of gameplay instead of minutes.

Final Thoughts

If you’re looking to get your hands on a fun new 2D platforming game that challenges your gamestyle to the very core, Dead Cells is certainly for you. The game is incredibly challenging, but also extremely rewarding when success occurs. I feel a very close relation to the early Prince of Persia and Castlevania games when playing Dead Cells. I was able to pick it up and enjoy it for hours at a time though I fully consider it to be casually focused in gameplay. Knowing that makes the game more appealing to myself in the future.

Motion Twin created a hilariously funny game with the snide movements of the Prisoner, and the dialogue with other characters.

You can officially get your hands on Dead Cells today on the PC (Steam), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. The current price for the game on Steam is $19.99 USD with a 20% discount until August 13th, and afterward it will be $24.99.

Good

  • Great Variety of Weapons/Runes/Mutations
  • Soundtrack and Graphics are Great
  • Casual Gameplay Optional
  • Modes for Normal and Streaming (Interactive)

Bad

  • Lack of Plot
  • Procedural Generation Can Be Daunting and Repetitive
9

Amazing

Story/Plot - 5.2
Gameplay - 8.9
Soundtrack - 10
Graphics - 9.5
Controls (with controller) - 10
Modes - 10
Weapons/Runes/Mutations - 9.5
An avid gamer, journalist, literary reviewer, and lover of all things Marvel; wrapped in a colorful hair-do.
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