July 26, 2021

Xbox One X

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Dead Cells’ glorious confidence trick

2 min read
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Not to brag, but I have one hell of a Biro on the go at the moment. You know the kind of thing, right? Cheap disposable pens tend to have their own characters – the grindy one, the gritty one, the one that you’re forever trying to coax back to life with mad eddies and whorls. This one, though, this one is the one you dream about. Oh man, it is glorious. A thick black line that just flows out onto the page. So smooth! Strangely rich. I feel like I could take that line anywhere, even if I’m just writing a shopping list or a phone number. The line makes me feel like writing. I am already starting to mourn this Biro a little, because I know it cannot last forever.

And – grinding sound – this sort of puts me in mind of Dead Cells, which I have been playing, it seems, for a good half of my magical Biro’s lifespan. Honestly, this is not the miserable reach that I have made it sound like. Dead Cells is a hard game. How hard? The main menu says “Continue”, even when you have actually died in a run, because life and death is all the same in a game like this. You die, but hopefully you unlocked a few more permanent perks for your next life. You will die again, of course, the predictable enemies swarming and overwhelming, the procedural tunnels and ramparts forcing you to lose your bearings. No matter, the game says: the line, as it were, makes you feel like you can take it anywhere.

I felt it instantly, too. My first steps into this game’s deeply inhospitable world. People – including the people who made it – would like you to believe that Dead Cells is a bit like Dark Souls, and it is, it is, in a hundred different ways. But there’s one way it’s very different. When I started Dark Souls, I found myself cringing, retreating into a more compact version of myself, weighed down by the sense of all the awful things that lay ahead and deeply aware – this is the thing of it – of my complete and obvious inadequacy when it came to dealing with them.

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