Dead Cells: Return To Castlevania Review

Dead Cells Return to Castlevania Header

Dead Cells: Return to Castlevania is the latest in a long line of excellent DLC for what is one of the best Metroidvania-inspired roguelikes. This is a masterful fusion of a game with one of its original inspirations, and it’s thoroughly entertaining to see the two worlds interact with one another.

What’s truly impressive about Return to Castlevania is how it balances both games equally. I was concerned that one game or the other would overpower and dominate, making it feel less like a crossover, but that’s not the case. Castlevania is lovingly represented in every aspect, all while maintaining the same humorous moments and slick gameplay that Dead Cells is known for.

The soundtrack is one such area, plucking music from Castlevania and then giving it a decidedly Dead Cells twist. It results in some of the best music in the game, feeling both deeply nostalgic and incredibly modern. The weapons also fit perfectly into Dead Cells, with so many of them feeling like they’ve always been a part of the game anyway.

The highlight for me was seeing Richter Belmont and Alucard talking to The Beheaded. Castlevania is such a self-serious series, and that seeps through in Belmont and Alucard’s conversations with you, but Dead Cells just isn’t that serious. In fact, The Beheaded’s most commonly used reaction is just a comedic shrug. It made me laugh every time it happened, because it was like putting a comedy character into a grimdark fantasy and just letting them ad-lib.

Dead Cells Return to Castlevania Combat

The same is true when you eventually meet Dracula. He goes off and monologues, and your character just doesn’t really care. The Beheaded isn’t even that sure why they’ve been dragged into this, and as a player you’ll likely be driven forwards by new loot and the promise of some cells. It’s just a really entertaining situation to find yourself in, because it doesn’t matter what you end up fighting off against in Dead Cells; your reaction is always going to be a bemused shrug, and then a lot of violence.

The boss fights are the real highlight here. While I did enjoy exploring Dracula’s castle, nothing beats the satisfaction of crushing him, or Death itself, in combat. Both fights retain a lot of awesome moves from the original series, including Dracula’s iconic fireball and fire orb attacks, but it’s all been sped up a little to match the faster pace of Dead Cells.

Dead Cells Return to Castlevania Death

The resulting fights feel like the rest of the DLC, in that they’re just excellently balanced fusions of both Dead Cells and Castlevania, which you don’t see in many games. It’s a joy to experience as a fan of both games, and could be a great introduction to the world of Castlevania for those who’ve never experienced the series.

As you can probably tell, I’m very taken with Return to Castlevania. If had to levy any criticism against it, it would just be that I’m sad that we don’t get Castlevania games any more, and now I really want Bloodstained 2 to hurry up so I can enjoy a new game that has the same spirit. Also, I’d love for Motion Twin to make an actual Metroidvania Dead Cells game without the roguelike foundations. We can all dream.

Dead Cells: Return to Castlevania is an immaculate love letter to one of its inspirations, but it still retains so much of its own identity and humour as you explore Dracula's castle as The Beheaded.
  • Excellent fusion of Dead Cells and Castlevania
  • Battling Dracula and Death in excellent boss fights
  • Dead Cells' humour shines through
  • Can we have new Castlevania now, Konami?
Written by
Jason can often be found writing guides or reviewing games that are meant to be hard. Other than that he occasionally roams around a gym and also spends a lot of time squidging his daughter's face.