When business is booming, there's hardly time to take a vacation. Things need to get done. The capitalist machine needs to keep rolling, and so on, and so forth. That apparently also proves true for the death industry. Business has never been better for the Grim Reaper (given the current state of the world, nobody should be surprised), but unfortunately, that means the underworld is overflowing. Death himself has to investigate, leading into the 2D action roguelike, Have a Nice Death, from the team at Magic Design Studios.
Have a Nice Death pits Death against the overenthusiastic employees at Death Incorporated, who have taken far too many souls from Earth. Players are almost certain to draw comparisons to another underworld-themed roguelite, Hades. However, Have a Nice Death almost immediately sets itself apart with its 2D traversal, as well as with its beautiful hand-drawn art style. One thing this game does share in common with Supergiant's breakout hit is a fluid combat system.
Death faces down his foes with his mighty scythe, but expect to see numerous other weapons over the course of the game's life cycle. There are over 30 weapons to master, as well as a slew of spells to learn. This is another area where Have a Nice Death starts to carve its own path. Death has three attack buttons and they can each be tied to a different weapon. Beyond the standard scythe, expect to find larger swords, massive hammers, and ranged spears. The differences between many of these weapons are subtle, but knowing which one to use in any given situation will go a long way towards advancing to the areas in the game. The weapons start out fun, but there's always room for improvement, as evidenced by the ability to upgrade each of them.
Death also has another tool that proves valuable. Players can utilize a dash to help reach distant platforms, but it also ends up being a useful tool in battle. Many of the game's early enemies will telegraph their attacks and the dash can not only help avoid incoming blows, but it can also help Death position himself behind a foe for a strike from behind.
In a field of overcrowded roguelikes, Have a Nice Death looks to stand out with its art style and its penchant for humor. The characters are adorable and the dialogue is good for some laughs. The off-the-wall workers of Death Incorporated can be found throughout each run and Death's interactions with them are a hoot. Death likewise has some humorous exchanges with the underworld's bosses, called Sorrows, who each have their own distinct personalities.
One thing to note about Have a Nice Death at the pre-release stage is that it has a few undesirable mechanics on display. For one thing, the game takes an idea from fighting games and uses the concept of gray health. That means it's possible to recover health, but only up to a certain point. While that's fine, given that this is a roguelike, it does often leave players at the mercy of luck and RNG. Take a few unlucky hits and that health recovery item in your inventory will be a waste, especially since it's gone at the end of your run anyway. Worse, there's no way to improve your character between runs. While it is possible to upgrade weapons, you still have to find them over the course of your run. That means you could upgrade a specific weapon, but go the entirety of your next run (or several runs) without ever finding it. Yes, this game is a roguelike, but the randomness element feels omnipresent, more than it does in other games of this genre.
Death's journey is only just getting started, as Magic Design Studios will look to improve on the game in the months ahead. You can learn more about that from our recent interview. Have a Nice Death is currently available on Steam Early Access. The full release is coming soon to PC.