What lies inside a prison is a corpse, or in fact, many corpses, which one of it is the protagonist, where the player plays as a decapitated head of green goo controlling this dead body, only to die and restart all over again with another corpse, repeating this insanity till what seems to be the end.
Dead Cells is an indie, Metroidvania rogue-like dungeon crawler with procedurally generated maps with different routes, making each and every run a whole different experience. In each run, the player will try to kill the King of the kingdom, but only to have the King explode, causing the player to return as the green blob, and restart again.
Lens #7: Elemental Tetrad
The combat system of Dead Cells is relatively simple. The player is able to move bi-directionally and equip 2 different weapons and skills. As they progress along, the player becomes stronger by finding powerups by either defeating enemies or picking them off the ground.
With these functionalities, the player is to traverse a multi-biome map, defeating enemies which get progressively powerful. All in all, their goal is to simply defeat the King and “complete” the game.
However, each time the player finishes a run without dying, they can start a new run, but with increased difficulty and items. At the 4th defeat of the final boss, the player will be able to reach the true ending.
In this world, a spreadable disease known as the Malaise, has gloom across the kingdom, infecting and killing citizens. The King locks up and kills infected suspects, slowly losing his humanity. The protagonist plays as a single green blob to control a corpse and defeat this King.
What is truly amazing is how the game tells its story. Even though the developers did not really intend for a story for Dead Cells, they slid in areas and conversations in the game that tells the whole story instead of having forced, linear lore.
With each different biome, comes with a different background and environment, which changes the ambiance and how the player feels about the current place they are in. Using pixelated art rotoscoped over 3D models, they managed to create smooth and fluid animations, making the game feel extremely responsive.
Dead Cells was made in Heaps and runs on, Linux, macOS, Microsoft Windows, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, iOS, and Android.
Lens #18: Flow
With the flickering number of enemies and each of their difficulty, the player will experience a surge of anxiety followed by relaxedness. In Dead Cells, the player will slowly defeat weaker enemies in the earlier biomes, which gradually becomes more difficult as the game reaches closer to the end, allowing the player to experience a constant flow.
There are two situations in which this form of excitement and tension mostly comes from. One is fighting a boss, and the other is opening a Cursed Chest. A Cursed Chest curses the player to instantly die upon getting hit by anything but provides a large form of reward that is simply impassable. Both situations will result in the player’s anxiety to rise, which causes their flow channel to constantly fluctuate, but enough so that they do not be overly stressed.
Lens #27, #31: Skill
How Dead Cells exploits the interest of people is by simply providing an extremely difficult challenge, rewarding those with talented mechanics and skills.
One of these skills required is mainly known as the “Hand-Eye Coordination”. Enemies in this game attack relentlessly, but they always form of indication to the player before their attacks, challenging the player’s ability to react at the correct time.
This single mechanic is what rules throughout the game, but as the game progresses, the player will be required to get better at it for the difficulty will be tinkered to a higher level.
Lens #33, #40, #41: Triangularity, Reward & Punishment
Dead Cells heavily incentives the risk that the players make. Here are two common situations where a large risk comes with strong punishment.
Cursed Chest: As stated, they cause instant death, but rewards hitless runs with powerups, ending the curse after defeating a set of enemies.
Powerups: Even the powerups have some form of risky take to them. One can either opt for more damage or health at a diminishing returns when going all out for either one. At this point, freedom is given to the player to choose whether they want survivability, or risk their small health to simply hit harder.
Although Dead Cells supports the idea of being risky, not all situations have a risk that comes with a reward. Sometimes, risk comes simply as a mechanism to complete the game itself. Like most rogue-like games, each time you lose, you only start back from the beginning, losing “almost” everything you have since your previous run.
It may seem unfair or even plain frustrating to reach the final boss, only to die to him and restart all over. But what dead cells do is that you gain more flexibility and power after each run. After each biome, the player can spend one of their currency, known as cells, to unlock new items, or improve every equipment in the game. This provides width and depth for the next run, ensuring the player will have something different to go with the next time they repeat. Hence death itself is actually a form of punishment for your current self, and a reward for your future self.