It’s quite the scene to see that nearly every other indie game out on the market right now is some form of a rougelite. That’s not because they all decided to jump on the hype train since these types of games were the talk of the town, its mainly because that’s what happened a few years ago when rougelite started to peak in popularity, and now they are starting to come out because that’s how game development works. However, if you look hard enough through all the rougelite games coming out, you tend to find at least one that is actually doing something good by combing a bunch of indie games that people love into a single package. That category is where Have a Nice Death falls into.
Have a Nice Death just came off early access on Steam and was simultaneously released on Switch day and date. Seeming to hope that copying the exact same model Hades used would pay off in their end. Bringing up Hades, this game feels like mixed together with Hollow Knight & Guacameele. It takes elements of Hades, like collecting gear that can only be good for the run you are certainly going through. Hollow Knight for its downright gorgeous art design that at times felt like a corporate art style, which given the theme of the game, I can see why they went with that style. Lastly, Guacameele for having a beat-em-up-like combat system that, at times, locks you in a small room, and you can leave when either everyone in the room is dead or they wipe the floor with you. You can also make the comparison to Salt and Sanctuary or Dark Souls because this game does not hold your hand at all, which at first can be daunting when you are given all these mechanics at the start, and a “good luck” before each run, but once you get into the groove, you start to play by the game’s rules.
The story is simple and to the point; you play as Death, who has gotten bored with the day-to-day lifestyle of being The Grim Reaper, so he decides to regulate death in a corporation format, with him being the CEO. Over time the VPs start to gain more and more power while you are just stuck in your office doing paperwork. But one day, you finally snap and go take back the company that was taken from you. The game’s setting is very dark and depressing in a comedic way if you have ever worked in an office setting. I kept getting vibes of this being an afterlife version of Corporate on Comedy Central, except the difference with that show, and here is if the CEO and higher workers finally snapped.
The gameplay is what you expected from a game of this kind of nature. You get select powers during your current run, while some are permanent and can be used to make each run somewhat easier, and everything is randomly generated, which, like Hades did to showcase that was your father is doing everything in his power to stop you from reaching the surface. Here is more context in the way that feels like, “Yeah, this building is big and a maze; never been to this part before.” This is a great way to explain the randomness of everything around you instead of being basic like it’s a video game go. As for the difficulty on display, it’s not for the faint of heart because it took me around 60 runs to reach the final boss, who just sneezed in my direction and killed me because I didn’t know what I was doing and didn’t get another shot until run 117. However, unlike Hades, you don’t need to beat the game ten times to get an ending, you just have to do it twice, and if it did take that from Hades, my thoughts would be more negative, mainly projecting through the seething in my teeth.
But the game is hard but not impossible, which seems to be the template for many games like this after Dark Souls came out, and especially in the near future since Elden Ring came out last year. But what could have been a flavor of the month, rougelite mixed in with some Souls elements ended up being one of the first indie darlings that I’ve played in 2023. The animation and art style are amazing, which given that the team behind this game are mostly from an animation background, should shock me. I ended up in a dopamine rush every time I would think this was going to be the run, then sit in silence for a second while I stare at the “your dead” screen. This game is an experience, an experience you should take if you know what you are getting yourself into. I do think when comparing the two, this and Hades, the latter is stronger in some aspects, but then I realized Hades is now influencing other games that are like it, and that just made me happy. In conclusion, Have a Nice Death was a nice but difficult time that I enjoyed going through, and never want to go through that again because this made me want to live longer before I spend the afterlife waiting for my number to be called.
Score: 8 out of 10
Reviewed on PC (Steam Deck)