As I sit here, staring at my Nintendo Switch, challenged, astounded, and completely angry, it sinks in. Magic Design Studios has defeated me. They've defeated me with a game that has been in "early access" since March 2022. See, I just finished my 64th run. That means this game humiliated me 64 times. This is not one of those "Git Good" situations, because even after the numerous online walkthroughs, tips and tricks from the developer themselves, and LOTS of curse words, it's come clear to me. They do not want me to win. They want me to die. Over and over again. And they want me to Have a Nice Death, which is the title of this game, and also the Scythe in my side.
For those of you who haven't played this, Have A Nice Death is a rougelike game, where the goal is if at first, you don't succeed, die, die again. Except when you die, you will take what you learned last time, plus maybe some sprinkled perks, and go back to the beginning. No matter how far you get. No matter how stacked your character is. If you fail, sorry. START OVER. Keep this premise in the back of your head as I take you through the offices of Death Inc. Then, when you're done reading this...START OVER!
The player character is Death, the grim reaper if you will. And as Death at Death Inc would tell you, business is good. People are dying at alarming rates, and the souls are coming in by the coffin-load. Death himself is so good in his CEO position that he becomes overwhelmed. In order to prevent burnout, Death decides to send out some new employees called Sorrows. The sorrows are based on acts of death. Fighting, pollution, gluttony, addiction, even War. These entities turn the death rate on Earth up to 11, and the paperwork alone is just too much for our cloak wearing...hero? In trying to prevent burnout, he's still buried in paperwork. Taking up the same Scythe he's used to snatch souls, he is now out to stop his own creation, so he can take a well deserved vacation.
Death Inc. is an office space. As you make your first walkthrough, there are random office workers who will talk to you and hip you to what you're in for. Most of these characters just talk to talk, and some even gossip about other characters in the game. As you go through the game, they will have their own problems, like trying to find where they left their back pack, or doing a Halloween ritual where they cut the interns head off. Yeah it's crazy, but not integral to the game. If you don't want to converse, just don't. Some of them are there to help, and we'll get more into that in a bit.
Also within that first walkthrough, you get a very nice tutorial. The game teaches you how to do all the platform-y things. Death is quick. His combos are executed with a few pushes of a button, and do some pretty good damage. Even his mid-air combos aren't to be trifled with. Some of the combos actually stun enemies and you can finish them off. Death also has an invincible dodge. That's right. Invincible. It also has a cool down so you don't "wave dash" through the entre game. Death has a mid air down ward slash, and can extend the height of his jump with an upward slash. You will eventually receive alternate attacks. Spells are hard hitting attacks and use mana, while cloak weapons are more range attacks, come with ammunition, and have a cooldown. There's also a super move, called Frenzy. Once this meter fills up, you can use a frenzy attack with ANY of your weapons. Don't be afraid to use these at any time. And experiment. The scythe frenzy is cool, but so is the bow and arrow one. The frenzy cannot be performed mid air, and it does leave you open. Take caution.
AAs you progress to the end of the level, you jump into an elevator. This will take you to the next leg of the world, or department. The game will give you choices of which "floor" you want to head to next. Each floor has a name associated with what you will find there once you complete the level. The Mana Department will improve your max mana. Intriguing Floor will get you into a challenge, rewarding you if you don't get hit, or make it to the elevator in a certain amount of time. Equipment Storage will net you some cool alternate attacks. Choose carefully and wisely. And don't let yourself be judged for choosing an easier floor, even if it's the break room. You deserve it. Did you want to memorize a level? Too bad. They're all procedurally generated. You do have a map in the pause menu, but only to show you where've you been and nothing else. The next to last floor will always be the shop, and/or the control room. The final floor is the boss. And stop bobbing your head to the elevator music. This is serious!
In game currency works as follows. You will find Soulary more than anything. This will buy you all of the things in the shop. I always stopped at the shop to refill my HP, because I'm always about to die. You can also use Soulary in the break room after conquering a boss. If you take a buff out the fridge, you can refill it for the cheap. You can also buy Anima, which lets you refill your life in game. These become more expensive during the run, but reset each time you die. The control room lets you upgrade your scythe, cloak weapons, and spells with soulary, and by using Prismium. Prismium is RARE, and you can use these to get an instant upgrades on the prementioned weapons, or even transform your scythe. Take advantage of this, because you can upgrade the scythe to be super powerful, and add effects to them.
Finally there are Ingots. You will receive ingots from larger, more difficult enemies in the game, and by completing certain thresholds before you die. Once you see the rest in paperwork screen (which will be a lot), you will see all the things you accomplished, even in death, and that will net you some of the gold bars. Use these when you go back into the game to unlock weapons, spells and food to be found in the game permanently. These are also cheaper based on what you've done in game. You will not find your favorite weapon or spell over and over again. The game doesn't want you to win, remember?
The Anima I mentioned earlier refill your HP. There are two types, blue, and gold. Blue ones are quick heals if your injured. You know you're injured when you bar is in gray. The gold ones will refill pure life, which means if you HP is down in black, the gold will refill that life force. You can carry three at a time. If you have three blue ones, and you pick up or are gifted a forth, it will turn one of the blue ones gold. If you have three gold ones, you don't get a platinum one, so use it or lose it. In "EZ" mode, you get three out the gate, but you're going to die, and you don't want to die with them still in your inventory, so don't be afraid to use these when you don't necessarily need them. Some of the enemies are one hitter quitters.
Your foes are plentiful. They may seem like they're low level grunts, but NONE of them are. Sure, some of them can be taken down with a few slashes, but all of them will attack you, and take a good chunk of your life. MOST attacks will be indicated by a large red exclamation point, which gives you the chance to dodge and counter. Be careful with this, because I definitely dodged too early, or the wrong way, and it was not fun. Some of them have two attacks. Some of them explode upon their own demise. Some of them even shield the entire screen of enemies. Some floors will have mini challenges, where the game locks you in a section and makes you fight your way out. You are rewarded for winning these battles, but enemies are everywhere and do everything to stop you. They can drop Koffee, which refills your HP, or different defense buffs. Sometimes they leave behind soulary or my favorite, life steal. Here's a tip. Kill the flying enemies first. You'll be better off for it. And pick all that stuff up! Leave nothing behind.
Among these minions, are mini bosses, called Thanagers. There is one Thanager per department, and fighting them is totally optional. They are no slouch, and if you're not careful, they will end your run. Though weaker than the sorrows, the Thanagers have very strong attacks, and just when you think they have a pattern, you're resting in paperwork. I relate it to facing someone in a fighting game, and the thanager is the cheapest character, and then there's a lot of button mashing. The sorrows, or bosses are SO MUCH WORSE. They are on the last floor of each level. You will fortunately face the same ones depending on the departments you choose past the first level, but even Brad, the first boss you face, is just brutal. You could give a tip to watch what Brad will do, then memorize his attacks, and go for the kill, but just when you think you have all the answers, the bosses change the questions. I've smacked Brad around a LOT up to this point, but sometimes, for absolutely no reason, there's a suited up, stronger Brad. How does the saying go? "If you hate the first boss, you'll... really hate the first boss"? Again? WHY!?
I know I've spoke on a lot of doom and gloom here, but the best part of the game for me, are the curses. Curses are given to you every time you make it off the entry level, every time you defeat a thanager or sorrow, every time you visit the shop, and every time you choose a floor with the name T.O'Shah. Curses are buffs to your character, and can come through your weapons, or your health and mana. They are broken up into 3 categories. Red (Daring) curses are your weapons buffs, and increase damage. Green (Excellence) enhance your spells, or triggers something when something happens to you. And Blue (Innovation) are more defensive, increasing healing or max health and mana. You will also eventually gain the ability to re-roll the curses presented to you, if you want to try your luck at something else. These are random, but if you stick with a certain color, the buffs get better and better with that category. They sometimes are overpowered, but come with a penalty, such as nerfing your defenses, or making certain enemies stronger. You can also get a penalty negation, but those are rare. You will recieve these curses often throughout the game. Take full advantage, because they too, go away when you die.
I left a lot for you to discover yourself. What I didn't want to do with this review is make it a playthrough of sorts. I won't tell you how to beat the game. I will tell you that your first, second, and third time through, you won't beat the game. You will get frustrated. You will dodge the wrong way. Your forth time through, you'll get to the third world, and still lose. The more you lose, the more permanent things will start opening up and appearing within Death Inc. This is what the game wants you to do. It wants you to lose. You will eventually unlock an elevator straight to Brad. It's almost better to not do this though until you are well versed. But if you go straight to Brad, and lose, that count's as a run. I lost to Brad, and suited up more powerful Brad at least 15 times.
The run from scratch will essentially make you more powerful, so then when you lose to the Zombie Thanager, you feel SO MUCH WORSE! Also, the permanent upgrades let you choose different versions of the scythe, and you'll have to run through those to se what best fits for you. Some are more powerful, some are quicker and come with their own buffs. All can be upgraded and transformed in the control room, but again, you're going to die. There is a lounge at the beginning of the game to try out the spells and weapons that you've already unlocked, but it didn't help me. I got to the final boss, and beat him, and STILL didn't beat the game. I'm not allowed to tell you why, but just trust me. Even when you beat the game, you still haven't beat the game.
All that to say, Have a Nice Death just came out of early access, and there's still some weird issues with the now twice-patched Nintendo Switch version. There are times when the game just stutters, and that's even not when there's too much on the screen. I experienced a couple of crashes, but luckily the game auto saves from the last elevator you got off of. There's also this weird fast forward feature you can use to speed the dialogue up between you and the boss, but the battle starts, and the boss, who is still in fast forward, just comes out swinging, hitting you with its most powerful attack.
The bugs alone add to the frustration that the game is no easier in its easy mode. You still get smacked around. You still get stalked, and punished for trying to pull off a mid air combo. You can cancel out of combos by dashing, but then you just run into something else. The hit boxes are a little weird too, and as I said before, sometimes the enemies don't let you know when or what they're about to do,. and if they do, they're going to do it a lot. I got caught in the corner by a giant crab, and every time I tried to dash out, I was resting in paperwork. In handheld, make sure your vision is fantastic, or the writing is gone. It's a challenge. But not one of those fun challenges. It's a hurt locker. The developers even know it's hard. And with all the permanent upgrades, stacks of curses, weapons, spells, currency, characters, and patterns, you will still get beat down...by Brad.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.
Joseph is the resident streamer for Gaming Nexus. He grew up playing video games as early as the Atari 2600. He knows a little about a lot of video games, and loves a challenge. He thinks that fanboys are dumb, and enjoys nothing more than to see rumors get completely shut down. He just wants to play games, and you can watch him continue his journey at Games N Moorer on Youtube, Twitch, Twitter, and Facebook gaming!View Profile