Dead Cells is quietly one of the best 2D combat games on PC, a highly snackable roguelike with gorgeous pixel art and a growing array of weapons, traps, and bombs. Update 14: Who's the Boss? expands the armoury with some of the game's most over-the-top weapon drops yet, like a (very powerful) frying pan and a giant fist.
The update adds seven items and six new mobs inspired by the game's punishing bosses. You summon the god-sized punching arm of a giant with a magic whistle. Amusingly, the giant chooses who he decides to smash. He mostly seems to target the strongest enemy on screen, but while I was playing he would occasionally obliterate a zombie in a different room minding its own business.
This is always funny, but it also shows how Dead Cells' world has developed since it dropped into Early Access in 2017. Dead Cells started as a gruelling, minimalist combat game inspired by Dark Souls and Binding of Isaac. It's still tough, but a few years of updates have added an inventive layer of tools that allow for more experimentation—though not quite as much as the developers would like yet. This update is designed to make "glass cannon" builds viable in the late game where shields can feel like a must-take item. Who's the Boss adds three melee-focused mutations to boost damage output for more aggressive play styles.
Seasoned Dead Cells players will recognise that giant fist as belonging to The Giant, added as a new boss a few months ago. The new items all represent The Prisoner stealing powers from vanquished bosses. New enemies will also spawn in biomes leading up to boss arenas, to give new players experience with that boss' nastiest attacks. It doesn't make the bosses any easier, but it does make the game feel fairer. Being instantly killed by an unblockable attack you've never seen before doesn't feel good.
The new weapons are the star of the update for me, though. There's a dash power that leaves a trail of flame. If you tap the dash command the moment The Prisoner stops, he'll dash back again. Motion Twin tells me that an early version of Dead Cells had a dash dodge, later replaced by the roll because it felt much better. By making the dash equippable, long-range and adding fire, it feels great to use. I also enjoyed the big red axe that you can charge up to deliver a high-risk, high-damage blow. Then there's the pan, which sells itself in the latest vlog at the top of this post.
While I was visiting Motion Twin last week and got to see some work-in-progress glimpses of Dead Cells updates planned months out, and there's substantial stuff to look forward to that I won't ruin. There is a studio dedicated to working on new Dead Cells features, and a smaller team of veteran developers speed-prototyping new ideas, one of which might become the team's next project. More on that process soon.