It’s lonely at the top. Hacking away at tasks and goals feels like an endless journey. With no sleep and cups of caffeine to help keep you “keepin’ on,” this is normal. This is routine. A loop of grey and grim. But for what? And at what cost? In Have a Nice Death, players take on the role of Death himself as founder and CEO of Death, Inc. in this hand-drawn 2D action roguelike game. Developed by Magic Design Studios, players will reap the rewards, or lack thereof, in a thriving massive corporation in the underworld. After all, processing all those earthly souls for the afterlife is an undertaking for one person.
You first see Death in his prime, standing tall, spry, and very good at his job. But, like most jobs, it begins to feel exhausting over time. Now, in his realized, highly functioning organization, Death sits alone and lost in a sea of towering paperwork. Quickly, we see the relatable dread brought on by repetition compounded with the demands of work. Death begins to age and become adorably tiny through the sweat and scythe of his career. Saying he is working himself to death would just be too meta at this point. While being literally buried in paperwork, he realizes his executive employees have not been following company protocol, and it’s time for him to regain control and restore order. Maybe even get a proper vacation out of it as well.
Much like Death, players must get familiar with Death, Inc. as they make their way to each department where your executives, referred to as Sorrows (bosses), reside. Each department in Have a Nice Death acts as a world that houses changing levels, aka floors. There are seven floors that are randomized within each world. Players have the freedom to choose the next floor they want to traverse, where each floor type has unique rewards. For example, if you’re in need of healing items (Blue Anima), visiting the Anima Deposit will guarantee such items. Enjoy spending Soulary (currency) to purchase weapons, food, and upgrades? Drop by the Soulary Deposit instead. Choose whatever is best for your playstyle and each run.
Exiting the warm, fuzzed elevator music, players start each run with a scythe. The scythe will eventually present in other forms like sickles and diss scythe, which offer different combo attacks. Players can pick up two other weapons, allotting three at a time along the way. Cloak weapons are secondary weapons with a cooldown for their unique effects and attacks. Then, of course, we have Spells which are magic abilities that use specific amounts of mana to cast. With each weapon, players can unlock Frenzy, an ultimate attack. Its meter builds over time, and the damage can vary, but ultimately are more potent than your standard attacks.
As with most roguelike games, death is inevitable. Have a Nice Death certainly is no exception. It never felt too much as I floated down the halls of Death, Inc., wielding my scythe of authority. The florescent pink glow it emanates when attacking made it easier to place Death amongst the onslaught of enemies and animated projectiles. Curses (passive bonuses or buffs) add to the delightful uncertainty of what I enjoy about the roguelike genre. They are ultimately helpful in optimizing your build but sometimes come with a Curse Penalty (debuff or negative effect), so choose wisely. But I would still die, though. A lot. Sometimes over the slightest misstep. But it felt appropriately challenging and never made me feel like I was invincible or that an area was unbeatable.
Have a Nice Death smartly utilizes a corporate setting that pairs so well with the roguelike genre. As players trudge on in the corporate grind as Death, the game will take you through conversations about the trials of trying to maintain a work-life balance and difficult working conditions. Dark humor is satirically used to bring attention to feelings like burnout and harassment, which, unfortunately, isn’t uncommon in most work environments. Players will hack and scythe their way through a world that feels fluid, fun, and extremely gratifying. With 17 difficulty options, it’s approachable for players new to the genre while also offering quite the challenge for veterans. Couple that with more than one way to resolve the mess that ensued, and the game will never fail to remind you of all that paperwork that still needs to be done.
Have a Nice Death will be available on Nintendo Switch and Steam on March 22, 2023.
Have a Nice Death
- Rating - 8/108/10
Have a Nice Death smartly utilizes a corporate setting that pairs so well with the roguelike genre.
Katherine is a writer and occasional Twitch streamer often found sharing her fondness for most things indie and diverse. Covering video games and tv/film she hopes to inspire thoughtful conversation for titles in these mediums.