Dead Cells E3 Impression
A game concept combining two of the most popular current buzzwords — roguelike and Metroidvania — is certainly not something new. But developer Motion Twin did a few other things right to set its game Dead Cells apart from the others at this year’s Media Indie Exchange event at this year’s E3.
Make no mistake, Dead Cells is more platforming action than anything else, as evidenced in the trailer below. But this isn’t a knock against it; controls are butter-smooth, and combat extremely fluid. Enemies, at least the few I was able to face off against during a short gameplay session, went down after a few swings, and it was satisfying to cut my way through while flipping and dashing around the screen, quickly moving on to the next challenge.
Dead Cells wears one of its inspirations proudly on its sleeve: resemblances to Symphony of the Night and Super Metroid are unmistakable. An on-screen mini map keeps track of rooms you’re already visited as your character jumps off walls, avoids traps, and engages in fast-paced combat to make his way through a foreboding castle.
Some roguelike elements do enter the equation, though. The player is only given one life to make it to the end; levels randomly regenerate upon death, and the whole journey has to be started over again. The only exception to this are certain upgrades you find over the course of your run, which aren’t retained on your character upon death, but remain unlocked and can simply be reacquired within the castle (though how exactly this is done I wasn’t able to see).
Dead Cells wasn’t just a blast to play, but really pulled me in with its pixel art graphics. I am a fan of games that are able to remain detailed and expressive using pixel art, and Dead Cell looked impressive, with the one caveat of some enemies being unnecessarily obscured by large magical orbs used as projectile weapons. It’s too soon to say for sure if Dead Cells will bring the kind of experience that fans of the subgenres crave, but for those willing to take an early splash, the game is available now for PC on Steam Early Access.