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Game Review #094: Dead Cells (Nintendo Switch)

Reviewer: Frankie W.

Developer: Motion Twin

Publisher: Merge Games

Category: Action, Platforming, Roguelike

Release Date: 08.07.2018

Price (at time of review): $24.99 (digitally)

Buy Dead Cells (digitally) from the Nintendo eShop here.

Buy Dead Cells (physically - regular edition) from Amazon here.

Buy Dead Cells (physically - Signature's limited edition) from here.

I ♥ Roguelikes

I loooooooooooooooove roguelike games! I don’t always have a lot of time to sit down and spend hours and hours on a game in one sitting, so the very quick-format of roguelikes is great for my gameplay habits! My Switch is essentially a roguelike machine, with a TON of them on there, so I can fulfill whatever gameplay desire I have. From Super Metroid, to twin-stick shooters, crazy wizard adventures and with this, a Metroidvania game with Souls-like combat on a 2-D plane—and that is a winning formula, it turns out! Dead Cells has blown me away and taken hours and hours of my time at this point, and it’s currently wearing the crown of my favorite Roguelike to play on the regular. With its quick no-nonsense combat and its hugely varied cast of weapons, sub weapons, and enemies, it makes every run full of satisfying moments and rewarding gameplay.

Dead Cells starts in a prison cell; dark, wet, and dilapidated. You see something gross drip down from the ceiling, hit the floor, and slink its way to a dead body in the cell. It enters into the body, and you see it stand up. The spot where the body’s head had been erupts into a mysterious blue flame, and it begins to move on its own. This is how the game starts, with very little information, where you seemingly play some kind of creature that can take control of dead bodies. You quickly run into another living person, who lets you know you are on a prison island with no escape. From there it is up to you to piece together what happened on this island, who you are, and how you can escape. You pick up your sword, and either a shield or a bow, and continue your way into the prison to face the monsters and the challenges within!

You Knew What This Was…

Dead Cells is a roguelike, so perma-death and unforgiving gameplay is the norm for this genre. Dead Cells throws in some ques from the Dark Souls line of games by having the combat focus on identifying patterns for you to land attacks safely, while using the invincibility frames in your roll to navigate the field of combat. You have a variety of primary weapons that go from normal swords, daggers with a powerful 4th strike, hammers that do more damage to healthy opponents, slow massive swords that change up how you play, and even crazier things like homing electric whips!

You also have a secondary slot that is generally home to either a shield that will allow you to reduce damage you take, or with proper timing you can even parry opponents to knock them off balance, take no damage and get the opportunity to inflict some big damage! Also, in your repertoire of secondary equipment, you can get a variety of bows and throwing weapons that allow you to engage at range in a wide variety of ways. Beyond that, you also have two slots for your abilities, which can be spells, grenades, bombs, turrets, and more! There is a HUGE variety of equipment that will allow you to find a gameplay style with which you will resonate, and even beyond that, there are a HUGE amount of modifiers and mutations to further customize the way you want to play!

For The Inner Masochist In Us All

There is also lots of permanent upgrades you can get that last even through your death, and trust me, you will DIE! This game is one of the hardest roguelikes I’ve ever played, and it's a slow slog to really perfect the way you play this game and truly learn and understand the mechanics, but it is insanely satisfying and rewarding to play and learn.

As you beat bosses and progress through the non-linear levels, you will get abilities that will increase your ability to move around the area, as well as do things like teleport, grow vines, and others that will unlock more areas. It’s nice that they make a point to put spots in earlier levels where you must use abilities you get later in the game, because, every time, it opens up a whole new path for you to take as you continue to unlock new blueprints and modifiers, and try and solve what is going on and how you got there!

This game just keeps evolving and presenting new gameplay mechanics, or ways to elaborate on previously established mechanics, and it is always feeling fresh every time a new enemy or a new boss arises. There's that weird feeling of getting completely wrecked by a boss that arises out of nowhere, taking your “perfect” build with which you got so far, and throwing it in the trash essentially. Because you get the flashes of how to beat it, and you are motivated to get back there and try again—because you KNOW you can beat him—the game never really feels oppressive, and you can generally place the blame on your own skills as a player when you have a death. It's an absolutely fantastic feeling, and this game does it better than most roguelikes! I get so into every little bit of story the game feeds me, I eat it up without a question. From secret areas containing clues to a bigger mystery, to bodies with notes attached, I can’t wait to find out who I really am as the player character, and what happened to this prison!

Wrapping Up

All in all, Dead Cells is an INSANELY satisfying gameplay experience that will have you coming back to it, death after death, as you figure out new synergy between items, unlocking new blueprints, and forming new strategies. From the BEAUTIFUL pixel art that is so good in motion, to the haunting soundtrack and killer boss tracks, this game is a complete package! It's a little pricier than a lot of the games we review around here, but at $24.99, months later I am STILL playing this game happily. This game has earned itself a permanent spot in my list of top 3 Roguelike games, next to Rogue Legacy and Binding of Isaac, and it truly deserves that spot. I give Dead Cells a resounding 10/10. It's a game about which I’ve talked off all my friends’ ears to get them to play it, and have even bought the game for friends I know would like it. Get this game TODAY!

Final Score: 10/10

Buy Dead Cells (digitally) from the Nintendo eShop here.

Buy Dead Cells (physically - regular edition) from Amazon here.

Buy Dead Cells (physically - Signature's limited edition) from here.

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