According to the Kübler-Ross model, a person confronted with their own imminent mortality must negotiate a sequence of five stages of grief – from denial, anger, bargaining, and depression, through to acceptance.

No. No. Noooo. This is not happening.

WHY DID I EVEN OPEN THAT STUPID CURSED TREASURE CHEST? I HATE YOU, STUPID CURSED TREASURE CHEST.

Okay, but maybe I shouldn’t open cursed chests. But maybe next time I open a cursed chest, things could be different. Maybe.

I’m going to miss my combo Double Crossb-o-matic V+ so much. I can’t go on without it. I won’t go on without it.

… I’ll go on without it. I’ll probably get a new one, anyway. I’m ready to start over, and I swear, I’m totally not going to open a cursed treasure chest (unless I do).

Game info
Genre: Platformer
Platform/s: Xbox One, PS4, PC, Nintendo Switch
Reviewed on: Xbox One X
Developer: Motion Twin
Publisher: Motion Twin
Distributor: Digital
Website: www.dead-cells.com

Mashing up the baroque architectural elegance of Castlevania with the uncompromising tribulations of Dark Souls and the randomly-generated levels and loot tables of Diablo, Dead Cells is a game that, despite its not exactly subtle contrivances, is also an almost entirely unique remix of them. As the grossly reanimated corpse of a prisoner in some crumbling Gothic château of inconsistent proportions, you must traverse a series of increasingly chaotic locations before… you know what? I dunno because, even with some 30 hours on the clock, I haven’t actually managed to finish it and I expect most people won’t. 

Because when you die in Dead Cells, it’s game over, and not game over, reload save – it’s game over, game over. And you’re going to die in this game. A lot. It’s as inevitable as deciding not to open any more cursed chests, forever, and then opening a cursed chest because you think you won’t die this time, but you’re going to die this time. And the time after that. Get used to it.

Nuh-uh.

So, you restart over and over and over, but it’s not necessarily a complete loss. Before you die (because you’re going to die, we talked about this), you can collect stuff – gear and skill blueprints, for example, and in-game cash – to boost your available inventory of spawnables or even unlock permanent upgrades. I mean, it’s a literal consolation prize, but in Dead Cells, you take what you can get.

I know what you’re thinking. “But Tarryn,” you’re thinking. “This is masochistic and futile and I’m going to play something else instead.”

The thing is, this game is super fun and ultra addictive, with some of the most visceral, sphincter-clenching combat mechanics in its genre. The controls are responsive and precise to a nanopixel, supported by an astounding array of animations. Every moment looks and feels amazing. It also helps that Dead Cells is scrupulously fair – every abrupt demise is absolutely your fault. You didn’t dodge in time, you missed a jump, you opened the cursed treasure chest. So you die, you cry, and you try again.

98Its relentless difficulty will shut out some people, but for everybody else, this is an unconventional and extraordinary game that will keep you coming back for more. An instant classic.