Have a Nice Death Review: All About That Rogue Grind

by David Sanchez April 10, 2023 @ 1:30 pm

Have a Nice Death - Video Game

Reviewed on Nintendo Switch

At their core, roguelites are all about that sweet grind. You play, die, retry, and hope to get a bit further every time. The genre has evolved in some interesting ways over the past several years, with titles like Cult of the Lamb and ScourgeBringer among others making it so that you unlock persistent upgrades. This makes the grind feel worthwhile, and it gives you a better fighting chance, too. Have a Nice Death does things similarly, but its grind is a bit slower. As such, this may not be everyone’s favorite new roguelike, but it’s still worth a look.

All in a Day’s Work for Death

You play as Death, the immortal Grim Reaper, who’s dealing with mundane life — or rather, afterlife — putting in time at the office day in and day out. Things become a bit more stressful for our hero when he realizes that some of his underlings have been going rogue for their own gain.

Have a Nice Death Gameplay

The story of Have a Nice Death is decent enough, but it’s the way it’s presented that makes it fun to play through. Thematically, it’s like a mix of The Company Man and Death’s Door. But while the former was a much more straightforward commentary on the 9-to-5 drone life, the latter added a novel supernatural twist, mixing corporate tongue-in-cheek humor with a darker fantasy tone. That’s what Have a Nice Death Does, though it does it in a persistent manner compared to other roguelites’ stories.

What that means is that even though the gameplay loop has you dying and retrying, the story itself continues to move forward. Hades did this with its story, and that worked to create a plot that moved along even if you had to start over. Death then feels more like the end of a chapter than a game over. It’s a nice way to tell a story in roguelike games like these, and it’s fun seeing what new things the NPCs say with each run.

Slow Burn, Slow Grind

Have a Nice Death is a 2D hack-and-slash action game. Movement is fast-paced and fluid, and it all works quite well and looks even better thanks to some fluid cartoon-like animations. Though there’s some vertical movement, jumping, and air-dashing, this is not a 2D platformer, nor does it ever really feel like one. No, this is a straight-up action game with mechanics that are more arcade-like.

Your health meter is handled quite interestingly in Have a Nice Death. You won’t really find items that fully heal you when you’ve taken damage. Instead, defeating enemies grants currency that fills an icon on your HUD. Once full, you can use these to heal yourself. It’s a nice trade-off, and it adds a unique twist to the formula, making it so that your success and survival are tied to how well you can fight off enemies.

The difficulty of Have a Nice Death is mostly balanced and doesn’t go overboard for the most part, though this is a challenging game. Mini-bosses and major bosses are especially fiendish, but the challenge feels good. Of course, there are times when you’ll be obliterated by bigger enemies when you’ve got just a bit of health left, and that can be frustrating, but such is the nature of the roguelike genre.

Have a Nice Death Bonus Upgrades

Aside from persistent upgrades that you’ll unlock for subsequent runs, Have a Nice Death also gives you temporary upgrades that’ll benefit you for your current run. These are typically buffs, some of which have downsides to them but that ultimately give you a decent boost. 

Overall, the action is solid and the flow of the game is smooth. If you enjoy roguelikes, you’ll have fun with this one. There are some issues, though. For starters, disposing of enemies can feel kind of mindless at times. Combat is mostly fun, for sure, but there are times when enemies appear more sporadically — which happens sometimes in games with procedurally generated levels. In Have a Nice Death, that kind of happens a bit too frequently, so you’ll go stretches without facing enemies, and these moments, which last five to ten seconds, can feel dull.

There’s plenty of grinding to be expected in roguelite games, and Have a Nice Death is no different. Some players may be put off by the fact that the grind here is presented at a much slower pace. You’ll earn different kinds of in-game currency and XP that allow you to unlock upgrades, weapons, and abilities, but all of these unlocks trickle in at a very slow rate. If you’re digging the action, that likely won’t be too big a deal, but if you’re specifically looking to be rewarded for your efforts, it can feel like a slog at times.

Animated Death

Have a Nice Death Roguelike

The tone of Have a Nice Death is very much cheeky and not-very-serious. Death is somewhat of a grump, but he’s a likable grump, and he’s surrounded by all kinds of colorful characters.

The art style of the game is right in line with this tone. It has slightly dark and brooding overtones, but the cartoon look of Have a Nice Death creates an interesting contrast. It’s almost like an old school cartoon that’s more on the darker side without taking itself too seriously — like that old Beetlejuice cartoon from 1989.

There’s an argument to be made that Have a Nice Death will most likely only appeal to folks who absolutely love roguelites and can’t get enough of the genre. It’s not perfect, especially with regard to its long-term progression, but it’s certainly still a fun game, and it’s not without charm. If you’ve been looking for a new roguelite to play, Have a Nice Death is a solid option.

Score: 7 out of 10

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