Parents' Guide to

Dead Cells

By Michael Lafferty, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 14+

Violent, randomized dungeon crawler is amusing challenge.

Dead Cells Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this game.

Community Reviews

age 10+

Based on 6 parent reviews

age 10+

Excellent Challenging Game

Dead Cells is a great metroidvania/roguelike game that focuses on learning. At first, the game is relatively simple as the player slashes through a few zombies but not long after the difficulty ramps up and becomes harder to handle. As the trailers and promotional material state you will get better, eventually. The new free DLC update provides a great post game challenge to run through that will put everything you as a player have learned, to the test. A big thing other parents I’ve talked to are concerned about is the game’s violence level since that is a big topic these days. Trigger warning: you do have to kill zombies, slime creatures, and other fictitious beasts. Weapons are of the medieval type such as swords, bows, and spears. The most technologically advanced device is a gadget reminiscent of a bear trap. The blood and gore factor is moderate but has a great amount of help from the actual gameplay and game design to decrease that. When you strike an enemy, yes, blood comes out and when an enemy is defeated they fall apart and blood comes out. Where the gameplay and game design decrease this is that the game is meant to be played very fast-paced and emphasizes fast movements to beat or evade enemies. When playing the game properly, the blood effect goes unnoticed due to the high speed gameplay required to win. The game is also two dimensional and pixelated (like older video games most parents are at least familiar with) meaning that blood is not realistic or could be mistaken by a child as something else since the art design doesn’t provide upmost clarity of the images represented. Other reviews state that the background is the real issue with the game, “There are piles of festering corpses, hacked-up people dangling from meat hooks, and there's a particularly memorable section where a person evidently hanged himself before turning into a monster.”. These concerns are, again, made irrelevant by the style of game play and game design. Speedy gameplay means that the background is seen as a blur of dark squares instead of gory depictions and pixelated art style means that images can be easily misinterpreted by even adults. The aforementioned content is merely an interpretation of what the collection of squares is. A pixelated lump with flies around it could be as easily a dung heap or a pile of trash. The “particularly memorable section where a person evidently hanged himself” could also be interpreted as “some ripped fabric hanging on by a chain” since the graphics are unclear and there is no context to prove that a person hanged themselves. Game design also assists in this department since interactions are completely optional and it took me many, many attempts at the game and in none of them have I found the situation wherein the character behaves inappropriately and “...kicks the hanging corpse to get some treasure...”. I initially bought the game for myself but have allowed my 10 and 13 year old sons to play seeing as there is nothing wrong with the game’s contents. I won’t sugarcoat it: the game gets HARD but with determination and problem solving both me and my children were able to beat the game on our own save files. I’m recommending this game for 10+ because younger children might not be able to handle the difficulty and dislike the game. To conclude, there is nothing wrong with the game content and the scariest part of the game is it’s daunting difficulty, if you think you child can handle that then I highly recommend this game to any who seek a great game and fun challenge.
age 12+

Game play good - Backdrop questionable

Parents (The Good): If you liked Super Metroid as a kid, you'll LOVE this title! That same sense of rising triumph pervades as new upgrades are unlocked. But like Dark Souls, the character dies a lot. It does become more survivable over time, but there is a distinct learning curve. However, when that learning curve is surmounted, the game play is deeply rewarding. Parents (The Bad): Though the violence involved in playing this game is by no means over the top, be aware that thematically this game covers the same ground as Dark Souls, but with absolutely zero subtlety. NONE. There are piles of festering corpses, hacked-up people dangling from meat hooks, and there's a particularly memorable section where a person evidently hanged himself before turning into a monster. The character comments to say "A moment of silence............... Enough of that, I've got things to do!" He then promptly kicks the hanging corpse to get some treasure. That sort of snarky, dark humor runs throughout, and might be a bit much for kids. Honestly, it's because of that sort of thing that there is a part of me that regrets buying the game. Overall: The game play itself is fantastic. But, I find myself feeling very conflicted about having this game around. At least with Dark Souls, there's that artful subtlety that evokes in me this sense of pity and sorrow as I wander the playable areas. As I play through Dead Cells however, death seems to be treated with great irreverence which I find offensive and distasteful. Buy it for yourself and pay attention to the background stuff. If your kids run on the mature side, let them play.

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (6 ):
Kids say (12 ):

While the gameplay of this randomized adventure isn't overly complex, the challenge fuels an addictive puzzler of a game. Dead Cells doesn't bog itself down with overthinking the gameplay aspect, but instead offers up randomly generated levels that have unique monsters to battle. This is a game about timing attacks, like knowing when to use ranged strikes and when to go into melee mode. You'll also need to know when to use items (like a bomb that dazes monsters, making them easy targets) or using a trap to disable opponents (so you can use ranged attacks). On the plus side, the game's pixelated art style is colorful and moody, and the music is solid. The action evolves, and the dungeons are cleverly done, with plenty to explore. While permadeath is never a huge bonus, in this setting, it creates a sense of wariness. You can't just plow into monsters and count on whittling down numbers thanks to save points, because there are none. Die and you start all over at the beginning, but it won't be the same dungeon crawl you just experienced. It's challenging, infuriating, and engaging at the same time, making you want to dive back in and play as soon as it restarts.

Are there negatives? Some, but they're pretty minor. The explosion of bloody enemies could've been toned down to make it more accessible to a wider audience, even though you're not fighting humans. Plus, some pathways seem unnecessarily hidden -- for instance, you might not be able to see where you need to go on some stages until you're exactly in the right space to navigate through the environment. You'll also find that the gameplay prevents backtracking, so while you may gain a key or ability to unlock a new room or area that you were denied access to, you can't take always take advantage of it on that playthrough; the only way to use this is to die and restart the game. But even with these hiccups, Dead Cells is a lush title where its addictive nature lays in the fact that you can't just run through it.

Game Details

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