It is rare to find a gem, so masterfully crafted as Motion Twin’s Dead Cells. It is the epitome of an amazing game. More so if you own a Switch and want a game that you can jump in and out of on a whim, anywhere, any time. It is of the highest pedigree and should not be passed up no matter what platform you own. Metroidvania and Roguelike elements blend so delightfully to create one seamless whole that is far greater than the sum of its parts. In short, Dead Cells will have me chasing the proverbial dragon for many months to come. It is my introduction into the Roguelike subgenre, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
The game revolves around the central, headless character, whose shtick is that he cannot die. Whether he likes it or not, he is constantly revived at the end of every run. A funny reminder of this is the stacks of dead bodies in the mutations room, presumably those of the fallen hero. This sets the stage for the narrative to intertwine with the fundamentals of the genre, making perfect sense to an otherwise nonsensical plot-hole that I can only assume most of its predecessors have fallen through. Again, this is the first Roguelike I have played, but I thought the gimmick was handled quite well while being a little tongue-in cheek.
The prisoner is on a mission to slay the king, who is likely to blame for his incarceration. As you roam the winding passages of the underground holding cells, it becomes clear that you are not alone down here. An outbreak, called the Malaise has made many sick; and worse, has turned some into horrible mutations that you must slay your way through to get to the next area. Along the way you will find little tidbits of story scattered here and there within holding cells and chambers that are stumbled upon seemingly at random. These mostly serve to emphasize the hardships that those residing underground have faced. It is not uncommon to randomly spot hanging corpses and putrid carcasses. It is all handled with a dark sense of humor however, often rewarding these finds with a drumstick or kebab to replenish a bit of health.
The game mechanics are also air-tight. Responsiveness in controls and abilities make the player feel powerful, allowing a skilled player to never miss a beat, and a rookie to feel like he could become a skilled player. A mishmash of rolls, double jumps, and a plethora of pick-up abilities all culminate in a delightful experience that remains unmatched. No other game has made me feel the way Dead Cells makes me feel. Like I can accomplish anything within this world, and if I can’t, I’ll have another go at it with little to no consequence. Sure, the Roguelike elements mean that many of the items and powerups will die with you, but the abilities that do carry over are enough to give a nice sense of progression. The cells as a currency was fine tuned to make you feel that no run is a wasted effort.
The games graphics and sound also add something indescribable to the experience. It is done in a pseudo-16bit art-style that is really nice to look at, with a wide range of color pallets that keep the game looking fresh, be it for a five-minute run or a 30 minute one. The music made me feel like I was in a dystopic world, often ramping up whenever a more difficult enemy or boss was standing before me. The sound effects too did not disappoint. Every swing of the sword that landed, or every twang of the bowstring felt satisfying and rewarding. Ultimately, the sound and art-style were handled perfectly and with fine craftsmanship.
This game is highly replayable on top of all that has been mentioned above. The whole point is to repeat playthroughs, progressing slowly at first, and faster when you get the hang of the game and can put in longer runs. The cells can be spent on a variety of abilities and weapons, and there is almost always something to strive for. The more desirable abilities will cost more cells, encouraging further playtime. This is one of those games that is just so hard to put down, and when it is put down, it is not too long before it is picked back up again. I cannot emphasize enough how fun this game is. A must own in any video game library. It’s a perfect game in my book.
Replay Value: 5/5
Total: 25/25 or 100/100