A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Dead Cells is a downloadable 2D arcade-style puzzler for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and Windows PCs. The game's focused on violence, with the main character destroying monsters with a wide variety of weapons and explosives into bloody chunks, while he can be killed in gory ways. When the main character comes back to life, he frequently comes back without a head. Although the controls are simple, the mix of puzzle-based play and randomly generated levels requires a degree of planning and timing to engineer successful attacks.
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What's it about?
DEAD CELLS begins with a gelatinous bit of goo taking on human form in the prisoners' cells. The plot of the game is to battle your headless way out of this labyrinthian prison with its many levels and roving monsters. Along the way, you'll die, but you will gain new abilities that will carry over to new playthroughs. The levels are procedurally generated, which means each time out is a new challenge. As players explore this maze of levels, they'll discover new weapons to use against opponents, and eventually gain new abilities that will unlock new areas. Combat is full of fast-paced hack and slash action, with some ranged combat tossed in as well.
Is it any good?
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.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about violence in games. Is the impact of the violence in Dead Cells affected by the unrealistic combat that you're constantly engaging in? Would it be intensified by fighting against more realistic enemies or with more realistic graphics? How much violence is appropriate in a game?
What's more important for a fun, engaging video game - challenging play or realistic graphics?
- Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Windows, Xbox One
- Price: $16.99
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: Motion Twin
- Release date: May 10, 2017
- Genre: Arcade
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Sports and Martial Arts, Adventures, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- ESRB rating: T for Violence, Blood and Gore, Language
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.