My Switch has opened a huge amount of opportunities for ‘Metroid-Vania’ type games like Dead Cells. It’s probably full of that genre more than anything else. Dead Cells however, plays like a dream and has kept me playing well into the 30 hour mark. ‘Why?’, I hear you ask? Here’s why…
Right off the bat, Dead Cells can be quite unforgiving in it’s later stages. For me, though, that’s fine, due to the huge amount of replayability the game has. Without spoiling too much, I could see this in the way of after a few deaths, there was a part of the game right at the beginning – every time you start a new life, in fact – which was like a ‘here’s what you can get’ ‘shop’ (for lack of a better term). You couldn’t buy anything here, but there are plenty of jars hanging from the ceiling, both empty and full of items you had collected over each life, which just made me see how vast in terms of items Dead Cells actually is.
Sliming your way through
Each new life starts off the same. You are a piece of slime which drops down from a pipe in a prison cell – think a cross between the green of Slimer from Ghostbusters when you drop out of the pipe and then Earthworm Jim when you crawl into a lifeless corpse and essentially become that person. Once becoming this ‘person’ your adventure starts and while it starts the same – a choice between a second weapon or a shield – and away you go. With the world being procedurally generated, the sections of the game (Toxic sewers, Promenade of the Damned etc) are fresh every time, both in design and items.
Enemies vary from small cannon fodder to big hulking beasts and big bossess that can take out huge chunks of your health with one hit looking to shoot you dead. Deaths don’t feel cheap and I feel like every death to me is always my fault, even with only a dodge roll at your advantage if you didn’t pick a shield. With metroid-vania style games, this sort of progression can always be hit or miss I find. However, with the progression that Dead Cells provides, it’s spot on. Even one little upgrade can make a difference between runs, from a small health upgrade to a whole new ability.
The enemies naturally get tougher as you progress, but with the Promenade of the Damned being your ‘rest stop’ in that you can buy new items with the gold you have gained from killing enemies and also use any cells you have earned to upgrade any abilities such as damage, health, special skills and more, the break in between to make yourself stronger and potentially replenish any health potions or/and just your health is a extremely welcome one.
Cells are for progression, not entrapment
Cells are the currency used which help improve your character’s stats for every run. Want improve your health? You can do that. Want to increase the amount of gold you keep when you die? You can do that. Make your starter weapon random from all the weapons you have unlocked? You can do that too. Each run is completely different yet oddly familiar, even with bosses at the end of each level, it never gets repetitive to the point of boredom, and I can always look forward to my next run.
Although it may not seem it, Dead Cells is a breath of fresh air to the metroid-vania style of games. From top to bottom, it looks and runs fantastic on the Switch and plays like a dream. The progression keeps me coming back run after run, making me feel like I’m getting better each time and rewards me with further things to unlock for said better runs.