The game title the lead character April is all smiles with various cute aliens surrounding her

Die After Sunset Review

Game: Die After Sunset
Genre: Adventure, Action
System: Nintendo Switch (Also available on Steam (Windows & Linux), Xbox and PS4)
Developer|Publisher: PlayShark | PQube
Age Rating: EU 12+ | US Teen
Price: UK £16.99 | US $19.99 | EU € 19,99
Release Date: August 17th, 2023

Review code provided with many thanks to PQube. 

Aliens and Time Travel

Die After Sunset is a 3D action shooter with roguelike elements. It’s an ambitious game where you explore a large map, seeking out upgrades and taking on a bizarre alien menace. The game delivers a good first impression with its colourful graphical style, comical enemies and the familiar but addictive rogulite design. But it doesn’t take long into the Switch port before you discover that it might not have been quite ready for release on the beloved handheld hybrid. 

The year is 2120, and the Earth has been invaded by aliens known as the ‘Murkors.’ They are cute in appearance but show a much more grim side to themselves if you catch them in the darkness. April is a member of the resistance, fighting back against the aliens, but falls in battle. However, a guardian angel or robot saves her at the last minute, giving her another chance to finish the fight.

To put the aliens down for good, April will need to travel backwards in time across various levels, defeating large bosses to put things right and save Earth. It’s certainly a zany plot that attempts to put a unique spin on the familiar alien invasion concept. As you navigate the levels, more of the plot is drip-fed, presented in still cutscenes and text. It doesn’t make for the biggest impact, but if you’re just here to zap some aliens, you won’t mind.

A cutscene of April and resistance members fighting against the aliens
They are ruthless but kind of cute aliens

Adorable Aliens

I’ll make a shocking confession. I have never played Fortnite, and I don’t really intend to. Too busy with many other games, and since when did I care about being part of the cool kid’s gamer club? I bring that popular game up because the graphics in Die After Sunset certainly have that feeling about them. Bright and colourful, welcoming for absolutely all audiences.

Die After Sunset may be a shooter, but violence is kept to an absolute minimum with no blood or gore. That may be disappointing to some, but just take one look at these adorable aliens, and you might feel bad if they bled. The most horrific the graphics get is the enemies often morph into their darker counterparts, which appear more menacing, but if someone made them into a cuddly toy, I’d probably still buy one for my child, though secretly it’s for me.

The alien enemies often just made me laugh with their odd appearances. Early enemies appear wearing inflatables or swimsuits like they are going on holiday. Even later in the game, when the enemies start brandishing muskets, they don’t appear like the biggest of threats, and I had no problem with this. 

April walking through a level, she is being followed by a small blue alien and one hanging from balloons
Feel like I’m being followed.

The Boss is Coming

You initially choose between two characters, with a third being unlocked over time. Each character has their own unique starting weapon and abilities. April has a pistol and handy light grenade, whereas Rido, the male character, has a machine gun and mighty kick. Controls are typical of a third-person shooter. Die After Sunset does a helpful job explaining all this in an interactive tutorial and a quick reference guide of screens should you need a refresher.

The aim of the game is to take out the boss in each level. However, you have a period of time before it arrives. During this period, you are encouraged to explore the map, taking on side quests and unlocking chests to upgrade your gear. This will put you in a better stead to take on the boss. But if you can’t be bothered or are confident in your skills, you can just wait out the clock till the boss arrives and try your luck.

Levels are massive, wide-open environments with enemies constantly spawning to hinder your progress. Sometimes, it gets a bit annoying when you want to get your bearings. You start on a beach-like level to explore, with you travelling back through time to castle-like settings and what looks like a town from the Wild West. Locations feel unique, but I didn’t feel the greatest sense that I was travelling through time. 

Side Quests

Side quests are easy to track, thanks to a compass at the top of the screen. These missions might involve protecting some precious art from alien destruction, stopping a crane from getting out of control, or even stopping the aliens from stealing swimwear. You can quickly tell this is not a game that takes itself too seriously.

Much of the design is taking on waves of enemies or protecting someone till a timer expires. If successful, you’re given a 3-star rating, with the top mark granting the best rewards and side quests; you can loot chests dotted around the island, some requiring you to defeat a set of enemies or some costing some lightning energy to use. Some items also require this to be used, so watch your meter. This energy is regularly dropped by enemies or found in little glass jars. While the level design is fixed, the position of side quests and chests is always randomized per game run.

Boss Fights

The boss fights are expectedly hard and meaty with enormous health bars. Really putting your skills to the test. This is a rogue-lite, after all. When they arrive, you need to find them before the timer expires or the run ends, giving you a little wiggle room to find a few extra chests or find some health pickups. If you win, you get more chests to buff some stats.

Interestingly, when you start the next level, you lose all your bonus trinkets, such as any new weapons or special items you accumulated. You only retain any buffs to your health, shield, attack and lighting enemy bars. What I liked about the trinkets is that they will change your character’s appearance, such as having them wear silly hats or specs. It’s a small feature but adds to the game’s silly charm.

The character Rido wearing some rather silly glasses
When taking on aliens, make sure to look cool

The Grind 

As is the case with the roguelite design, you will die quickly. To upgrade, you must collect this pink goo that is sometimes dropped by the aliens. This can then be used to upgrade your abilities between runs and unlock new items and perks, making the game open up and become gradually more accessible.

The pink goo, however, doesn’t automatically bank on death. Some will carry over, but to safeguard your pool, you must seek out a vending machine hidden in the level to keep it permanently banked. This feels like quite the chore in what is already a very grindy feeling game. Honestly, I almost quit this game early because my character felt far too underpowered. Unlocking new content required quite the grind to get my character built up to a level that made the experience enjoyable. Unfortunately, the grind is not the only issue the game suffers from on launch.

The Glitches

Die After Sunset, on launch, still feels like a game making its way through Early Access, which was on PC. The game is littered with glitches and performance issues, sometimes making the experience rough. Some of the glitches were funny, such as my character’s weapons would not point in front of them when aiming, making it look like they were shooting out of its handle rather than the gun barrel. Others were not so fun, such as side missions not triggering at all, meaning failure was the only option.

The performance at times felt like it crawled to single-digit frame rates, with things dramatically slowing down and feeling awkward when engaging in combat. This seemed to maintain through runs regardless of the number of enemies on screen unless I just reset the game. Because of this, it made aiming weapons and using items hard to use. At times, the game just felt unplayable.

April aiming at a very angry alien
I don’t think this alien is surrendering

Conclusion: Sun Down

Die After Sunset has the promise of an enjoyable rogue-lite experience, with some pretty big ambitions for its design. But the Switch version is not there yet. It’s let down by poor performance and several glitches that don’t make for the best gameplay experience. As someone who loves the roguelite genre, I could push through the problems and find some enjoyment, although it did require a lot of grinding and tolerance. PC may be the way to go if you need your rogue-lite fix.

For now, consider Wishlisting this and being patient for patches. The developers are clearly working on it since, during the review, they already fixed a glitch that stopped the tutorial from functioning. The sun may have set on the game for now, but a better game will hopefully resurface when the sun rises soon.

Final Verdict: I’m Not Sure

I'm not sure

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