Some of us have an insatiable love for things that hurt, like deadly hot sauces conjured from the belly of hell or rom com films. The same area of the brain that causes people to receive enjoyment from torture, happens to be the same brain space that makes folks love the permadeath aspect of Dark Souls games. Well, we all need to give thanks to the Ashen One, cause Dark Cells is here to give us more of those fun frustration pangs that we love from our painfully fun experiences with Souls.
Dead Cells is an action-platformer with a cool Dark Souls twist, a dash of Metroid action with a splash of classic Castlevania play-style.
In Dead Cells, you play as a character that when killed, is respawned all over again… by means of a ball of green goo. This puts you in the position of having to fight through ever changing levels, leveling up over time, and learning your enemy’s tactics and figuring out what weapon combos work best. Most of all it allows you to keep your learned skills in order to become a tough mo’fo over the course of splendiferous amount of death.
You are going to die. Die a lot. Much like in Dark Souls, dying is part of the whole thing, the blaringly big difference here is that each time you play through a level its laid out entirely differently.
That makes the would-be frustration of having to start over and over and over again, a learning experience, where you are able to level up, create mutations and figure out what makes your enemies fall the fastest.
Slotted weapons allow for a melee item, a ranged item and two sentinel or grenade type items. The combination of these items are up to your preference and finding the one that works best for you might take a few worthwhile deaths.
I know, what you are thinking, all this sounds super familiar. Well hey, it’s something the creators at the devs are acutely aware of, down to the title basically being a play-off of Dark Souls. It’s a labor of homage and love for the permadeath gaming subgenre that actually does a great job of breaking a mold, while still working in the same shop in which that mold that created.
Controls are well-done and exude the feeling of later Castlevania games along the lines of Symphony of Night. Throwing in a variety of weapons and furthering that with tiers on those individual weapons, simply increases playability and doesn’t allow things to become stale as easily. And with a game that’s focus is putting you through the same grind again and again, this mix works like gangbusters.
Enemies come with their distinctive approaches to combat, some yield more annoying results than others depending on the combo of weapons that you have in your arsenal at that moment. Using your full collection of moves, especially the god’s gift that is dodging, are essential to get learn early, cause later levels (if you can make it) are freakin’ tough.
Dead Cells is a really special game that kicks a special amount of pixelated butt. It is in on the joke and remains playful about it, if the title isn’t proof of that the main character and his comedic pantomime expressions sure are. The action, challenge and the rewarding punishment Dead Cells gives you are worth the price of entry, and are essential for Souls and Castlevania fans alike.
Dead Cells is out now on PC, PS4, Xbox One, Mac and Nintendo Switch for $24.99.