Game: Death or Treat
Genre: Action, Platformer, Roguelite
System: Steam (Windows & Linux) (also on PS4, Xbox and Nintendo Switch)
Developer|Publisher: Saona Studios | Hawthorn Games
Controller Support: Yes
Price: UK £19.99 | US $24.99 | € 24,99
Release Date: May 11th, 2023
Review code provided with many thanks to Press Engine.
Death or Treat is a 2D action rogue-lite with an appealing animated design. Halloween appears to have come very early this year in this title, but if you need another rogue-lite fix, then this will fit the bill, if not a familiar one.
A bad company working for a worse company has shut down all the local businesses in town. It’s up to you, a little ghost, to venture forth to take down this evil corporation and rebuild the town in the process. I guess one could make a lot of similarities between the plot of this game and the unfortunate fate of independent businesses up against big corporations in real life. Its premise works well with the rogue-lite design in that you won’t rebuild the town in a single playthrough. It’s repetitive but entertaining to attempt to take down the evil corporation, gradually rebuilding the town and getting stronger with each try. If only life were as easy as a video game. The narrative is short and simple, with the main focus being its action gameplay.
Action Roguelite Checklist
Death or Treat follows the familiar action rogue-lite template. Start the game underpowered and head out on a run attempting to get as far through the game as you can. Defeating enemies, smashing crates and finding hidden chests will net you blue ghost coins and sometimes crafting materials which are used later to rebuild the town and upgrade your abilities. Gameplay mainly focuses on hack-and-slash combat with some 2D platforming.
Controls are easy to pick up. With each run attempted you’re greeted with a giant billboard reminding you of the controls in case you forget as I do. It took me a few runs to realize I could do a cool uppercut move with my melee weapon. As well as this, you have a ghostly dove to get out of pickles and traverse large areas when platforming. By defeating baddies, you can charge up a special move like a flurry of deadly ghosts or projectiles. This can be selected before a new run and upgraded over time. Combat is satisfying, but enemy placement seemed a bit odd in the game. Many of the enemies are clumped together on the same long stretch of platform, making me think this was a kinda 2D Dynasty Warriors. It made it a bit tricky to track the more deadly foes leading to some cheap shots. Levels are randomly generated, but it didn’t take long before I saw the same designs repeat, such as hazard and platform placement, to the point where it was a bit tedious.
Boss fights tend to be where the difficulty seriously spikes. In fact, in my first two attempts at the first boss, I barely entered the room before the sod lobbed some green muck at me, killing me instantly and offering little time to figure out what was going on. But as is the rogue-lite way, each failure is a lesson. I happily replayed, and reached the boss again, eventually figuring out its pattern and conquering it, netting some good crafting rewards.
Enemies tend to clump together.
Stand Out Moments
There’s nothing wrong with Death or Treat’s formula, but as someone who has played an absurd amount of these games, it feels very familiar and grindy to get to the point where I started enjoying myself. I do want to give credit to the areas I felt stood out. There are many weapons to unlock, from wands to various enchanted swords and bats. Each of these has a distinct gameplay style and feel, providing plenty of incentive to attempt a new run. Something else I liked was before the boss fights; you could purchase potions for a small fee. They carry the risk of buffing or possibly de-buffing your stats. A risk, a reward that felt satisfying.
What’s most striking about the game is the incredible art direction. Animation of the characters feel like something out of a high-budget animated film feeling fluid and smooth with each movement. The environments themselves have incredible attention to detail. The overall vibe is Halloween, but if you stop to take in the environments, you notice the small haunting vibes like the creepy forests and unusual items lining the shelves in neocortex areas. This is all accompanied by a suited eerie soundtrack to match the general Halloween tone.
Conclusion: Treat More Than Trick
If Death or Treat is your first foray into the action roguelike genre, then you will find a lot to love about it. For those more versed, you may find a very overly familiar experience that doesn’t reinvent the formula. I fall more into this latter category. I liked experimenting with the different weapons and builds before venturing off on a new run, but I felt like I’d done this all before. Death or Treat is not a bad game; it succeeds in what it sets out to do, a fun experience to grind away with a fantastic art direction. Suited to those looking for a short gaming fix or ready to settle in for a good game night. Halloween or not, you can enjoy this any day of the year.
Final Verdict: I Like it
Be sure to try the free demo on steam to see if this spooky title is to your liking.