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Dead Cells is like a Lovecraftian nightmare. An increasingly disappointed player desperate to escape their own deteriorating dreams, making any and all decisions that would actually benefit them in the game’s tense single-player mode the most horrifying of all. The expansion, Bad Seed, doesn’t change anything. It isn’t bigger, flashier or less frustrating than the original, but its use of X-Ray Visuals, new weapons and even new routes to take at the end of each stage makes this one of the most exciting, rewarding and soul-crushing stories about humanity ever told.
For anyone who's played the game, there is no need to recap. Dead Cells is an elegant monstrosity, one that uses the asymmetrical gameplay of roguelikes to masterfully evolve what begins as little more than two players fighting pixelated Death Dealer robots and rough-and-tumble crawlers. The gameplay unfolds exactly as expected, as players battle through stages of running into enemies and unlocking new weapons, machines and items, but all of the twists the original had provided are practically forgone when faced with the ominous darkness that is the Bad Seed.
This expansion is merely an instant fix for what’s broken about Dead Cells and perhaps a good way to sell the game without offering many of the game’s new mechanics. But those mechanics are so well done, it’s hard to ignore. With hints of musical cues from composer Grant Glen, new weapons like a butcher’s cleaver and an electrical socket over your head (and which lasts anywhere from ten seconds to twenty minutes, depending on the player’s hand) and the occasional creepy motion line too, Dead Cells has finally come home.
The new map features a series of mines, eventually permitting you to hunt down some of the Bad Seed itself, but mostly it's just an ever-shifting cat-and-mouse chase between you and the creatures. Shots with The Bad Seed are incredibly satisfying and prepare to become the scariest thing in the game, as you make your way from console to console, dodging the creepers along with rare upgrades like low-propulsion shooters and traps. Those traps force you to take evasive maneuvers throughout the course of the Boss Stage. Watch out for the door over your shoulder while running to your final boss.
The characters in Dead Cells have always been interesting, but often aggravatingly unlikable, but with Bad Seed you'll find yourself understanding how ineffectual and irrational your decisions have been more than anything. In the Bad Seed, there is little reward for your greed and only slight respite when your hardest choices at the end help you gain access to the parts you need. Standing atop the heavy Death Toll Machine, the only major survivor of the Bad Seed is only behind a hole that crashes the screen, refusing to let you get the robot.
But even with none of the charms of Dead Cells' characters, how much further can you push yourself before you become just as vicious as the Final Reckoning, from which you’re not permitted to redeem yourself? Is losing the Supernova, the most powerful of the Bad Seed and most difficult to defeat, even worth it? As far as horror games go, Dead Cells is so emotionally draining to escape from that I had no trouble trying to forget the satisfying but sad spasms of defeat.
Dead Cells was released on January 18 and available to review. Check out our full review here.
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