Red Dead Cells Redemption
There’s a smell of gunpowder in the air, a flickering lantern that can’t pierce the darkness quite so well and a dread horror waiting in the shadows as you ready the rusty hunk of iron at your side for a fight to the death. Again. And again and again and again until the first second of eternity has passed. West of Dead is Groundhog Day meets Unforgiven, a rogue-like with an infinite loop of adventure and death in Purgatory as you seek for a way out from the most unnatural of deaths.
It’s also a game whose twin-stick shooting mechanics lean heavily on Deja Vu, and not by accident as the game borrows inspiration in equal measure from the likes of Hellboy and Dead Cells. On the surface level, you’ve got the main draw of Ron Perlman’s talented vocals, filling a very dead gunslinger by the name of William Mason’s head with questions about his lack of mortality as you trek through haunted mines, frigid frontiers and creepy cornfields.
West of Dead also looks very much like it was dreamed up by Hellboy creator Mike Mignola, with the game making heavy use of deep shadows, thick cel-shading and vibrant colours with which to craft its world. In action it looks stunning, flows smoothly and makes each showdown feel like an explosion of splash pages right in your face.
On the rooting and/or tooting side of the equation, there’s the Dead Cells influence that can be felt throughout West of Dead. With trial and error key to the overall experience, you’re not just unleashing a torrent of lead whenever you get the chance but you’re also finding yourself temporarily relieved of life when you run into a savage Wendigo or any other number of old west horrors lurking in the dark that want to turn your flaming skull into a latrine.
Live, die and repeat until the end of days, but with a twist. Just like Dead Cells, you’re collecting the sins of the fallen as a currency between stages, unlocking all manner of added bonuses that you can bring with you into battle. Just like Dead Cells, you’re constantly upgrading your arsenal, discovering new special abilities and doing your best to start a run that rewards you with optimum gear and perks. And yes, there are sections in each level where you can choose to increase your health, damage output and special ability efficacy.
What makes West of Dead different and more than just a Dead Cells knock-off (which let’s be honest, isn’t a bad game to be inspired by) is how it takes those familiar ideas and adds a new twist to them. West of Dead shines when you’re in the thick of a gunfight, dodging at the very last second to take cover and fire back at the horrors in the dark.
Even the most basic of enemy grunts can shave your health bar to smithereens with a handful of surprisingly accurate shots, while you soon find that your cover is in danger of crumbling from an onslaught of attacks from hellhounds, dynamite-chucking prospector spectres and brutal butchers. West of Dead requires you to engage in a dance of death, shifting from cover to cover and taking aim between moments of certain peril.
It’s a glorious experience, a shootout that smacks of the best of cowboy cinema as you empty the revolver in your hand and keep a shotgun loaded for anything that gets close to you and needs to be introduced to hellfire and buckshot. As a twin-stick shooter, every pull of the trigger has a hefty weight behind it, with better guns applying more debilitating effects to even tougher enemies as you venture further into Purgatory while Hellboy himself narrates your perilous odyssey.
There is a slight stickiness to Mason’s auto-cover huddling and aiming, but it’s one that players can still get used to quickly enough (I swapped from my Xbox One controller on PC to a PS4 DualShock and that seemed to create a smoother experience). Quality of life improvements are the only real issues to be had with West of Dead, such as having to hop through menus to find your map, the status panel not having enough information to glean through and dialogue being excruciatingly slow.
Still, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy my time with West of Dead. It slaps iron like a champ, it has the style of an outlaw and when you dig deep into its combat it becomes another prime example of just how flexible the twin-stick genre truly is.
Last Updated: June 18, 2020