When dying is just an inconvenience Dead Cells
(PS4/XO/Sw/PC) ★★★★ Age: 12+
Death is an inconvenience in this rogue-like 2D prison-escape platformer that riffs on Metroidvania tropes and echoes the vertiginous challenge of Dark Souls. If you cark it before the end of a level in Dead Cells, it’s back to the beginning (the very beginning in your cell) for you, with the landscape randomly rearranged and all your weapons stripped away.
If that tough rogue-like structure doesn’t sound appealing, look away now, because Dead Cells spurns the easily frustrated. But if you enjoy learning the enemies’ patterns and honing your combat skills in repeat after repeat, Dead Cells has much to offer.
The gorgeous pixel art is obviously reminiscent of Castlevania and the macabre tone (you are, after all, a constantly reanimating corpse) errs on the side of funny as you battle all manner of ghouls and zombies. Obviously, you’re learning shortcuts in every run and many times you gain a permanent perk that eases the pain of subsequent attempts.
Dead Cells is a hard sell to anyone without a masochistic streak but the punishment is rewarding for those who do. Overcooked 2
(XO/PS4/PC/Sw) ★★★★★ Age: 7+
The Overcooked definition of cooperation boils down to screaming at each other in Gordon Ramsay-esque tones as up to four players try to run a high-pressured restaurant kitchen. That is its genius, and Overcooked 2 wisely resists muddling the successful recipe that made the original so hilarious.
Now multiplayer can be online as well as the more rambunctious sofa co-op mode, some fresh dishes appear on the menu and the kitchen designs are even more chaotic.
But the core remains a time-sensitive juggling act as one player chops, another plates, another washes up, etc. All good, clean fun — except for your swearing, of course.
★★★ Age: 18+
Inspired by the themes and scenery of Blade Runner and with the lead ably voiced by the gravel-throated Doug Cockle (he of Geralt, The Witcher fame), State of Mind aims for the thinking sci-fi fan in this narrative adventure.
It’s a curious tale of investigative journalist Richard Nolan, who gets fired from his job in an oppressive future Berlin only to discover his doppelgänger operating in a parallel virtual world. Despite its musings on what it means to be human, it’s not as clever as a Philip K Dick-penned story might be, even allowing for the amusing moment when Nolan phones his surprised virtual self.
The real problem is your lack of agency in the storyline. This is a game, after all, and it largely flows past you like a book, rather than involving the player.