Have a Nice Death is a 2D action roguelike where you play as an overworked Death, whose employees have run rampant, completely throwing off the balance of souls – and his vacation plans. In order to restore order, you’ll have to grab your trusty scythe and show your employees who’s boss.
Publisher: Gearbox Publishing
Reviewed on: Gaming Laptop (5900H, 16GB RAM, Nvidia RTX 3050ti) and tested on PC (5800X, 32GB, Nvidia RTX 3070), Steam Deck
Also available for: Nintendo Switch
Developer: Magic Design Studios
Nicolas Leger (Creative Director/Animation/Cinematic/Character Design Lead), Bruno Gentle (Technical Art Director), Simon Dutertre (Lead Game Designer), Alexandre Brissac (Lead Gameplay Programmer), Meredith Alfroy (Narrative Designer/Marketing Coordinator)
This delightfully death-themed 2D Action Roguelike will have you coming back for more. Like many of its predecessors, Have a Nice Death has the magic that makes beating the game intriguing. As Death, you work your way through the company, defeating enemies which there is a massive variety. A comprehensive list is contained in the menu, from paper pushers with flaming heads to goo-looking creatures that spray you with goop, and drugs, to exploding attacks. Each department is themed, and the enemies match that theme; there is a heap, like physical injury, drug abuse, food, and hazards. Each of those also has an executive Sorrow seeing over it. Death announces his displeasure with their work and begins a fight with them. Defeating the boss isn’t the end. Defeating them leads you to the next department, which you’ll witness by watching as Death rides the elevator between levels.
On top of the depart design is a whole world of additional characters, each with tidbits of their story shining through. Secretaries, HR, and interns have roles in this game, mainly to give additional stories through the repeating landscape. Early in the game, the staff are on strike, and this moves into A/C issues, then a coffee-drinking competition. These stories make for some fun jokes around the office setting of the game. Water cooler conversations and rumours can sometimes assist you in battle, as will stealing lunches from the fridge. The game includes a decent melody with a gothic theme, which I could listen to all day.
Have a Nice Death, although primarily a grey-scale game with hints of colour, this design choice effectively directs the player’s eyes to where they need to be looking or moving their character from. The developers used this feature to highlight images in the background or colour attacks during the fast-paced hack-and-slash battles. Players’ attacks are separated into three sections, magic, cloak, and scythe. Each has a unique attack depending on the items collected. Cloak is a heavy attack and can be spears, hammers, or giant swords to crows; magic is a projectile such as a bow and an arrow, rocket launchers, or lightning and is for range, while the scythes are either strong and slow, weaker, and fast or somewhere in between. The scythe has five options, with two choices presented at the beginning of each run. The scythe also has a charge attack with two stages that can get you out of some sticky situations when performed right. Defeating enemies charges a special attack that, when released, unleashes a bevy of attacks across the screen; this attack can be combined with any of the attack types and will launch unique animation and attack pattern based on that — a great tool when battling bosses or multiple foes in a room.
Like most roguelikes, the progression resets after each run. The game is designed around the player getting better and understanding the unique builds to ramp up their runs. There is an option at the start to assist those who are having trouble. It gives three heals and reduces the damage enemies do if the player dies often. There are also curses and boons to assist the player on their journey. These are simple and have three forms, damage, mana, and health. Boosting any one of these might also have a curse attached. If you play smart, you can reroll these for an opportunity to get the desired trait to help complete the run. Curses, as the name suggests, have a different effect. They may aim to make enemies stronger, do more damage, or even be more plentiful. There is a tightrope walk to progress towards the perfect run, and I took a long time to gain the skills needed to perform this.
I enjoyed the game. However, I did run into some issues. To date, I am still unable to run it on my primary PC, the game will load till a point, and then all I see is darkness, well, a black screen. The game, however, ran with little to no issues on my laptop, where I played the game mainly. I also had some problems with cloud saves, but since the release, that has been fixed or at least no longer hindered me. The game is a fun hack and slasher, but the level design often repeats. No matter the department, they are all virtually the same, and it wears on you after so many repeating play-throughs.
Have a Nice Death has solid slashing combat, 2D roguelike levels, with a great story. Although the levels are very similar, the story, challenging gameplay, great complimentary music, and industrialist main character will keep players coming back for more. The game is perfect for portable systems, and I played a lot on Steam Deck. The quick gameplay and ability to sleep and wake during a run make for a great game on the go. As mentioned, I encountered some issues, but nothing that overly stopped my enjoyment of the game.