Review: Dead Cells (PS4)

Review: Dead Cells (PS4)

Platforms:

  • PlayStation 4
  • Xbox One
  • Nintendo Switch
  • PC, Mac, Linux

Platform/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4 Pro
  • HDTV

Extras:

  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • Move None
Title: Dead Cells
Format: PSN (471.9 MB)
Release Date: August 7, 2018
Publisher: Motion Twin
Developer: Motion Twin
Original MSRP: $24.99 (US), €24.99 (EU), £19.99 (UK)
ESRB Rating: T
PEGI: 16
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

In Dead Cells your character cannot die, okay that’s a lie, he dies all the bloody time. The first time for me was unexpectedly quick at a mere two minutes.

Gameplay:
Dead Cells tells a sad tale through branching paths and not a whisper of a checkpoint during the tricky levels. This is good old permadeath at its finest, although unlocking mutations and abilities carry over, which means access to certain avenues and secrets can be opened up and used.

Each death sends you back to the beginning in the putrid dungeon and to a random loadout. Thankfully, if you despise the weapon (especially if it’s those freakin’ sandals) you can restart and try again without any forfeit.

Review: Dead Cells (PS4) Review: Dead Cells (PS4)

Dead Cells is so thoroughly addictive I only stopped playing on two occasions, one because my DualShock 4 battery died and another because I was late for work. I usually get sucked back in when I quickly check what the loadout is and find a great blade and Ice Bow, and then before I know it I hear the morning bird calls and the sun is up.

You get two weapon slots for anything from dual daggers to crossbows and two more slots for grenades, traps, and maybe even a unique ability like being able to teleport behind an enemy. You also have a collar that can be swapped if you can find a rare amulet. I once found an amulet that made poison heal me instead of hurt so I spent a nice amount of time in the sewers bathing in the stuff.

Everything is random with each playthrough, from the weapons and their stats to the map layouts and secrets within. Yet everything stays familiar and coherent with the same doorways being generated to proceeding levels, just in different layouts. This means that you’ll always find the path to the Ramparts or Sewers if you look hard enough.

I have found myself laughing at some of the writing, actions, and bizarre characters in this epic platforming adventure. I won’t spoil any for you as stumbling upon some of them and reading what they have to say will definitely make you smile.

I am the one who knocks at every door I pass by, none ever open but I do sometimes get a reply. One day, I’ll get to see what’s on the other side, until then, I’ll keep rapping my knuckles on that wood.

Review: Dead Cells (PS4) Review: Dead Cells (PS4)

‘Too many secrets’ is a line from a classic film that’s also relevant to this game. Tucked away in every level are a number of inaccessible areas and seemingly useless objects. Eventually, you’ll find or kill something that changes or activates one of those things, and the game reveals another part of itself and sucks you in even deeper.

Elite enemies can sometimes be found lurking in a level and if killed will drop a load of cells and a fancy rare item. Similar to how Gollum feels when he has that ring, I don’t want to lose the rare and powerful weapon or ability. The pressure builds and every encounter becomes a nail-biting threat of losing my precious. Especially if I’m cursed.

Finding the right equipment combinations is a big part of how well you do in each attempt. My current favorite combinations are a nice Balanced Blade and an Ice Blast, together with a complimentary trap and grenade. Although, the Ice Bow is very nice too and has the added advantage of keeping at a distance to the target.

Dead Cells isn’t pure evil and between levels, there is a safe area where you can spend the cells that drop when you vanquish an enemy, change the stats of your current loadout from what looks like an ill-equipped forge, and top-up your health flask. I should really upgrade that thing, but there are so many other things I want to spend my accumulated cells on.

Not everything is as it seems in this absurdly addictive game and some of the creatures you meet might not tell the whole truth. Plus, if you want a chance at the Platinum Trophy you’ll have to be a bit naughty here and there.

Motion Twin has nailed the combat. The weaponry is varied and the combinations, especially the unexpected ones, are so satisfying and fun. Every death is fair but devastating as you see all of your cells and cherished possessions spill out onto the floor.

Review: Dead Cells (PS4) Review: Dead Cells (PS4)

Visuals:
Dead Cells is a gorgeous game with excellent lighting and particle effects that create a beautiful but eerie atmosphere. There is a distinct separation between levels with just enough of an assortment of clutter and variety in the parallax backgrounds to make exploring the areas varied and fun.

The attention to detail is insane, with spectacular and colorful combat effects making it feel as if you’re conducting your own personal but deadly fireworks show. The unrecognizable enemy remains are left in clumps on the floor with blood splattered on the walls, pipes, and even dripping down.

I love watching this world burn. Fire, ice, and clouds of poisonous gas look awesome when inflicting them on the enemy. I’m continually amazed by this game and took a ridiculous amount of pictures using Share for this review. It’ll take some doing to narrow them down.

Audio:
Dead Cells has moments of silence between some great music, whether it’s by design or luck, it feels like the calm before the storm and adds to the overall feel of the game. But, what elevates the game’s audio to excellence are the sometimes subtle sound effects, which add nice little touches to the decaying misery onscreen and a wonderful flair to the weapons.

I particularly like when a frozen enemy explodes into what sounds like diamonds falling onto a floor of ice. There’s no speech in the game, just text bubbles, but I’m happy with that. A good listen (or a little bit of luck) is also needed to solve one of the secrets in this sublime game.

Review: Dead Cells (PS4) Review: Dead Cells (PS4)

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is one player only and features no online component apart from a Daily Challenge, which is probably best left until the game has been completed unless you don’t care about seeing all of the enemies and weapons randomly dropped in the level.

Unlike in the main game, the map is visible but greyed out until explored and there is a countdown clock to up the ante. I really enjoy this mode and will play it often in the months to come.

Conclusion:
Dead Cells gets everything right and I highly recommend it, even if you think this game isn’t for you. Slowly upgrading and unlocking gear is great fun, especially with the devious risk-reward of hoarding cells.

This has become the pinnacle of its genre and has garnered a very special place in my list of all-time favorite games. Not that I could ever really write down a definitive list, so don’t ask.

There is something very special about Dead Cells, but so much of it lies in the secrets and features of the game that must be experienced for yourself. Don’t waste time debating it or reading any other reviews, trust me, this is a Game of the Year contender and will definitely be on my 2018 Golden Minecart list.

Now, if you don’t mind, I’m going to get back to smashing down doors, being cursed, kicking butt, and dying. Again.

Score:
10

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

Written by Chazz Harrington

Chazz Harrington

You can find me on everything: PSN, Twitter, Wii U, Origin, Steam, etc using my universal ID: ChazzH69

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