The “Not a Metroidvania” bundle includes 4 great Metroidvanias

Dead Cells

If only you could have heard the RPS treehouse chat a few months ago, during the great Metroidvania debate of 2017. Battle lines were drawn. On the one side: John, insisting that of course Dead Cells isn’t a Metroidvania. On the other side: everyone else, calling John an old fogey for insisting on overly strict and out-dated genre boundaries. On the other other side: the sensible people, who probably didn’t get involved because this is a silly discussion that’s of no consequence whatsoever.

Still, I was in the second group, and can’t help but picture the smug look on John’s face as he dropped news of the “Not a Metroidvania” Steam bundle into our Trello this morning. It includes the best game of 2017, the splendid Sundered, the Dark Souls-esque Salt and Sanctuary, and the comparatively essless Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition. John likes all of them, but what does he know.

So! Let’s take a little look at what you get for your not-insignificant £28.50. The games all fall under the banner of ‘2D platformers about exploring and fighting’, with the extent of their Metroidvania influences left to the ambiguity of those quotation marks. I think they’re all Metroidvanias, and you’re more than welcome to fight me.

I’ll start by reminding you that the combat-focused Dead Cells is fantastic, and has likely only gotten better since we named it the best game that came out last year. That’s because we’re cheeky and it hasn’t actually come out yet, with Update 6 and 7 both adding more stuff and refining what’s already there. Although the game’s systems clearly work, developers Motion Twin haven’t been afraid to keep diving in and overhauling them as they move closer to pushing the game out of early access. I wrote an ode to one particularly good feature back in January, and found that it’s impossible to talk about one good system in Dead Cells without mentioning many others.

I haven’t played Sundered, so here’s wot John thought of it:

“Its distinctive animation is worthy of accolades and awards – it is simply astounding. And its novel approach to being mobbed for combat has merits, alongside some frustrations. Neither dramatically shifts the game away from the most familiar aspects of the genre, all of which it delivers extremely well. It is that lovely holiday destination, and a lovely stay you’ll certainly have – the question is, fancy going there again this summer, or maybe somewhere new?”

Sure sounds Metroidvania-ey to me. If you do want to go somewhere new, then Salt and Sanctuary might appeal. And by ‘new’, I mean ‘Dark Souls but 2D’ – at least, that’s how Alec describes it in his review.

Alec wasn’t keen on it, but both Salt and Sanctuary and Guacamelee made it into John’s round-up of the best Metroidvania games. He called S&S a “rather splendid 2D open brawler“, and said that the “spirit and verve” of Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition make it “stand out in an often very straight-faced genre“.

In conclusion: these are all great Metroidvanias, and words are stupid.

You can pick up the Not a Metroidvania bundle on Steam for £28.56/$36.12/€35.64. The cheaper bundle price ends tomorrow, when it will be discounted by 20% rather than 50%. The games are all on sale individually, too.

14 Comments

  1. Freud says:

    Dead Cells is already feature complete despite being in Early Access. It plays fantastically well since the controls are very responsive. It is rather hard though, especially towards the end and the upgrade system is a bit grindy.

    Highly recommended for those that like a tough challenge.

    • Edgewise says:

      I just discovered Dead Cells two weeks ago, and it’s an amazing game. When you say “the end,” I’m not sure what you’re referring to because I keep finding out that there’s more to the game than I thought.

    • Assaf says:

      What a fun game. I was scared of the roguelike nature of it but it’s really fun so far, I find myself getting better quickly and enjoying it. Its mechanics already sucked me in into “just 1 more round” for many times already. I also think it’s not really metroidvania but it’s good. I was glued 6 hours to the screen.

  2. gabrielonuris says:

    Why Dead Cells isn’t a metroidvania? It’s a honest question, I never played it…

    Also, Sundered was completely forgotten after it was released, don’t know if because it was underrated or actually forgettable.

    Oh, and Hollow Knight isn’t on that bundle, so it’s questionable.

    • Humppakummitus says:

      For me, a critical part of Metroidvania is the exploration and learning of the world, which doesn’t really work with procedural generation. Dead Cells is still very good though.
      Sundered isn’t quite as linear, but still has the same problem. The place doesn’t feel built with purpose. It’s full of corridors leading to walls, since in some generations there would be a passage.

    • Freud says:

      It’s more of a roguelike in that you do runs and you have permadeath. You do keep some upgrades for your account for the next run so there is progression that way. There are a few runes that give you abilities to get to previously inaccessible areas and levels but once you get them for your save file they are always there and since you can’t go back to previous levels in your current run it doesn’t really work like a metroidvania.

    • Thomas Foolery says:

      I would say that a key feature of a metroidvania is an interlocking environment where the player will frequently be doubling back to use new abilities to open previously inaccessible areas/secrets/upgrades/etc. But in Dead Cells even though there is a bit of branching, you only ever move forward on any given playthrough. It’s pretty linear in terms of progression.

  3. ourgrandscheme says:

    I logged in explicitly to say that while I have a huge amount of respect for both John and RPS as a whole, to hold Sundered up as a competent game and to have been mildly displeased with Hollow Knight blows my mind.

    Sundered felt clumsy, insincere and strange for the sake strangeness’ sake.

  4. Ansob says:

    Fair warning: Sundered includes procedurally-generated maps (main objectives are in fixed locations but everything in-between is randomly generated, and re-generated on death) as well as procedurally-spawned enemy hordes, with no manual placement and no real regards to what is spawning in relation to what the room generator has built.

    Personally, I absolutely loathed playing it because I was expecting a Metroidvania, instead of a roguelite platformer with some Metroidvania trappings, but YMMV.

  5. Humppakummitus says:

    Worth mentioning: Salt and Sanctuary has a proper co-op campaign.

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