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Dead Cells wants you to die, a lot

In case you can't tell, things are not going well for you in this screenshot.

Dead Cells [official site] is a game in which dying is sort of the point. Every time you kick the bucket, whether that’s because you got booted in the head by an armoured beast or because you fell down a shaft by accident, you get access to new items in a mash-up of my two favourite activities: reincarnation, and shopping.

“We’re huge fans of Roguelikes and Castlevania,” say developers Motion Twin, “so it was only natural for us to give birth to their bastard son, the Roguevania.”

(A Roguevania is a portmanteau of roguelike and metroidvania, which itself is a portmanteau of Metroid and Castlevania, and one day in the near future all game genres will be heaving, boiling masses of words smashed into each other like that bit at the end of that game that I won’t mention because SPOILERS.)

Anyway, that’s the core concept of Dead Cells, in which you play a sort of sad trash-lump that takes over the fallen body of a soldier. You run through the dripping sewers and across the ramparts of a castle, killing enemies and collecting their souls (the titular “dead cells”) with which you can purchase upgrades later.

God, it’s hard. I played at IndieCade Europe a couple of months ago, and I died so many times that the developers had to jump in and help me get to the next part. Your mileage may vary, of course, because I’m terrible at combat, which is roughly 90% of this game. I know it’s been said a lot, about almost every game that’s a bit hard, but if you liked the way Dark Souls treated you, you’ll get a kick out of this, too.

The game combines all your favourite game mechanics du jour: procedural level generation to keep you on your toes; a total lack of checkpointing, because checkpoints are for babies; branching paths with different secrets and surprises down each one. That procedural generation in particular is very Rogue Legacy, meaning you can’t just hope to go back to the bit you were before and make incremental progress – once you’re dead, that level is gone. Sorry.

Dead Cells will be out some time this year. Prepare to die.

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Kate Gray

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