Have A Nice Death Review
A good roguelike should have charm, challenge, and some sort of drip-fed progress. Have A Nice Death succeeds in two of these areas for sure. Maybe I’ve been forever ruined by Hades, but I’ve come to expect more give-and-take from my roguelikes. Even if it’s an illusion, I want to feel like I’m constantly moving forward. I recognize that most roguelikes don’t do this. They simply aren’t meant for me, a self-proclaimed scrub. The more important question, then, is Have A Nice Death the roguelike for you?
The story is simple enough. Death is feeling burnt out, so he creates a squad of middle managers to handle all the dirty work. It turns out they’re a bit too enthusiastic about their jobs? A snafu of sorts ensues, one that Death must now resolve. The narrative is crammed with clever references to office culture, which I (an office drone) greatly appreciate. That Monday morning grind is a great way to paper over the grisly nature of the work being done. Mortality’s edges are softened somewhat, thanks to the snappy dialogue and thoughtful level designs.
Every department is unique. New enemies, new animations, and a fresh color palette all serve to set them apart from one another. This also means new enemy patterns to memorize, of course. Which is great! I stayed alert and engaged through every regular battle. Given how often you’ll be running these same gauntlets, it’s important that you not get bored too quickly. I wish they had applied this same logic to the elevator leading screens. That song will quickly drive you crazy, and you’ll be hearing it a lot.
Prepare For Pain
This brings us to the challenge. Have A Nice Death is tough stuff, for a couple of key reasons. Progression is based on your evolving skillset, for one thing. While you’ll unlock a host of items, you’re only ensuring that they show up during runs. Any incremental improvements you see will be thanks to you getting better at the game. Also, you’re actively discouraged from relying on shortcuts. If you take the elevator to the first boss too often, you’re punished with a hard-mode version of the battle. That was a uhh, pretty nasty surprise the first time it happened.
You can switch to an Easy Mode starting position, but it’s not as helpful as you’d hope. Healing items slowly get better, and you start with more of them, but that’s pretty much it. Again, I’m something of a scrub. I’m very aware of my condition! I also recognize that most roguelike fans don’t suffer from this problem. For those people looking for a challenge, this game has got you covered. There’s even two kinds of healing. If you only fix the superficial wounds, you’ll quickly lose the health you got back. Learning to balance your healing items is yet another hurdle to overcome, if you’re into that sort of thing.
My usual roguelike gripes aside, the controls are wicked smooth. You’ve got air dashes, charge attacks, fluid movements, and seamless directional strikes to master. Plus, there’s a host of upgrades and weapon variants to discover on your many runs. I was bruised and beaten soundly by this game, but in a fair way. Every death was earned, a gentle admonishment. I could do better, I should have dodged there, I shouldn’t have panicked. I never felt cheated by the controls or the mechanics.
Slick, Smooth Controls
Having this game on Switch is cool, but there are caveats. The system chugs hard during loading screens, and there’s a lot of loading screens. In addition, those first few moments in any given area suffer from serious frame dips and stutters. Loading was such a chore, that the game outright crashed at least once. On the other hand, once you get going, Have A Nice Death runs pretty well. I can’t speak to the performance on PC, but there’s a minor hitch or two on Nintendo’s handheld.
Once again, we come to the important question: is this roguelike worth your time? That depends. Fans of the genre will appreciate the challenge level, the smooth combat, and the robust skill selection. Newcomers and outsiders will love the unique aesthetic and the high level of polish. On the other hand, this game is proper tough. If that’s what you’re looking for, great! You’re in luck. If you’ve been softened and spoiled by other, more considerate roguelikes, then consider yourself duly warned. Have A Nice Death is a slick, relentless roguelike with all the charm and challenge you could need.
***A Nintendo Switch code was provided by the publisher***
- Slick combat controls
- Fascinating story conceit
- Unique enemy designs
- Lack of steady progression
- Easy Mode still pretty hard
- Switch performance issues