What is a man? A miserable little pile of gooey cells, apparently. In Dead Cells, you are some kind of sentient slime, inhabiting corpses and trying to escape a dungeon. This is easier said than done, because this self-styled roguevania wants you dead.

If the term roguevania doesn't make you cringe too hard, you'll find that the game has a lot going for it despite having just launched as an Early Access title. Around 40% of planned content is already implemented and a little more of everything planned for the final release in 8-12 months. Don't let the game's unfinished state keep you from learning its devious ways, though.

Developers Motion Twin clearly understand that responsive controls and fluid movement are the way to go here, and Dead Cells delivers. It plays like a dream, allowing you to zip around and fight gracefully. While the game certainly evokes comparisons to other "Souls-likes", it ups the sometimes plodding pace of these games, turning fights with multiple enemies into fast-paced, tense encounters.

The basic idea is that you fight your way through the procedurally generated castle, killing all the creatures you encounter for their cells, which can be used to unlock new stuff. Eventually you'll face bosses, who are bigger, meaner versions of regular enemies and who give you new ways of traversing the levels. New equipment can be found or bought on the way, too.


And then you die. Again and again. No savegame is going to save you here; once you're dead, you'll have to start over. While the game may be pretty tough, it doesn't get too frustrating. Just like in Cellar Door Games' Rogue Legacy, you spend your hard-earned cells on permanent upgrades and items. However, there's no need to have the right amount of currency on hand when you unlock stuff. Dead Cells lets you gradually work your way towards the next unlock, and for that I am very grateful. It definitely softens the blow of permadeath and makes you feel like you accomplished something with every run.

And have you actually seen the game? It is awfully pretty, with great art direction and some incredible places that make you want to take a break from all that fighting and just enjoy the scenery. In its current state, Dead Cells is lots of fun and an easy recommendation for fans of tough, action-focused dungeon crawlers. But enough talk... Have at you!

You can purchase Dead Cells from Steam or the Humble Store for $16.99. For more information, visit the game's website or follow developer Motion Twin on Twitter.