Dead Cells (2)

There’s a new game out on Steam Early Access this week. It’s called Dead Cells and if I were to grab you in an elevator and throw a few buzzwords at your face, I’d call it Dark Souls meets Groundhog Day meets Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. That’s good. In fact, the game itself is rather fantastic in its design and key gameplay hook: Death.

Lots of it, so get used to it. I’m not talking about the kind of death that you can quickly respawn from, but rather a proper permadeath usually reserved for reducing me to a quivering wreck in Fire Emblem. You die, you restart from scratch. Live, die and repeat. You’d think that such a setup would be massively unappealing, but it isn’t.

That’s because Dead Cells excels at its core gameplay, which always feels unfair enough. It’s weird, it’s punishing and I love it. It’s masochistic gameplay for certain, yet there’s always a lesson to be learnt from each fumble. That’s not the primary reason why I’m loving this game however. Because while Dead Cells is a sadistic treat to play, it’s beautifully easy on the eyes thanks to its nostalgic visuals.

Dead Cells (3)

We’re living in an age where the biggest games boast High Dynamic Range options and visuals that are this close to bridging the uncanny valley divide. Games that are shining and gorgeous examples of how far the technology behind them has come.That’s good and should be admired, but the past should not be forgotten because there’s still plenty of charm in retro visuals done right.

The thing is, I’m not interested in a demake of graphics. I think it’s more than possible to have visuals which are symbolic of the past and the modern day. The emotional nerd side of my brain loves that idea, especially when the end result is a smooth and fluid translation of the past, done today. It’s more than just some solid character animation that makes this art form special however. It’s the backgrounds, the colours. The size of the block and how many are used.

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Dead Cells (4)

Finding that sweet spot between yesterday and today in a collection of pixels is not an easy task. Dead Cells at least, has mastered the art of the pixel. If you’re interested in seeing it for yourself, Dead Cells has hit Early Access on Steam today. So if you’re in a mood to punish yourself, it’s well worth a look.

Last Updated: May 10, 2017

Darryn Bonthuys

Something wrong gentlemen? You come here prepared to read the words of a madman, and instead found a lunatic obsessed with comics, Batman and Raul Julia’s M Bison performance in the 1994 Street Fighter movie? Fine! Keep your bio! In fact, now might be a good time to pray to it!

  • Alien Emperor Trevor

    Wow, that actually looks good. Normally when I hear something on Steam being described as pixel art I automatically assume it’s a blurred mess.

  • Original Heretic

    This is the kind of game I absolutely adored back in the day. Wow, even now, I can feel my nostalgia rising.
    Crud, I’d better stop, I’m still at work.
    Stoppit! Down, nostalgia, DOWN!

  • Hammersteyn

    I wants it!

  • Daniel Hallinan

    Slightly off topic rant here, but saying a game is “like Dark Souls” means little to nothing these days. Generally, it’s used to describe a game that’s punishing, but (a) this is a quality found in games that was far more prevalent long before DS, and (b) being punishing was never what Dark Souls was about, so it’s an entirely flaccid comparison.

    Anyway, I’m not upset at Darryn (nor am I saying that his use of the term here is inaccurate) – I’m just Old-Man-Grumpy at seeing the term tossed about everywhere when it means very little. Bah Humbug and all that.

    Back onto the actual topic at hand, the game DOES look good, and definitely something I’d be interested in checking out. I tend to avoid early access, but I’ll be putting this on my watch list!

    • odinsgrandson

      Oh, I so know what you mean.

      For some reason, people think that all of these difficult 2D games are Dark Souls made 2D rather than being reminiscent of all of those extremely difficult 8-Bit games.

      In a lot of ways, I feel that Dark Souls was trying to make a 3D version of those old games. Somewhere, we just have a simulacrum.

  • Deceased

    Seems like something I’ll pick up

  • Skyblue

    On the Wishlist.

    I recently did a 99% run on Axiom Verge so looking for a new itch to scratch without having to fix my ePSXe emulator for Symphony of the Night.

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