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Have a Nice Death Review

Slave to the Grind

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One common attribute that nearly all roguelites share is that death is a positive. Titles such as Dead Cells, Grime and Hades will lead players to death more often than not, but you're almost always getting something out of it. Sometimes you get some fresh plot beats, and other times you are unlocking new skills. The bottom line is that sometimes you need to die to learn how to live. It's surprising, then, that it has taken so long for the Grim Reaper himself to show up in a genre so focused on dying. Have a Nice Death brings the most famous skeleton to the party, albeit in a way you might not have expected.

Have a Nice Death game

In the world of Have a Nice Death, the business of reaping souls can be a bit of a grind. As the CEO of Death Incorporated, the Reaper has found himself being worn down by the corporate slog. As with any business, reaping souls can wear on you over time. Not helping matters is the fact that his main underlings, the Sorrows, have been really botching their work these days. They have become an unruly sort who frequently ignore protocol, which in turns leads to a greater work load for the CEO. Sick of all this nonsense, Death has decided to clean up his business the only way he knows how: by slicing and dicing.

At its best, the title skewers both corporate culture and the ills of the world in effective fashion. The Sorrows are all representative of different modern problems. One boss represents the harm that processed food does to the body, while another is representative of the futility of modern warfare. However, the pre-fight banter between Death and Sorrows lacks the bite you would expect from the satire. I would say that the title does a better job of lampooning the toil of office work. As someone well versed in corporate culture, jokes about HR, temps and receptionists ring a little too true. The joking may not sting as much as the satire you get from something like Severance, but I was pleasantly surprised at how much it can twist the knife.

In order to take down the Sorrows ruining his business, the Grim Reaper will need to slash his way through dozens of different creatures inhabiting each department. The 2D side-scrolling action will feel familiar to anyone who has sunk some time into Dead Cells and its ilk. It's fast-paced and tightly designed, with a focus on dodging and weapon variety. Everything feels great to control and puts the title right on par with the greats of the genre in this area. I have been playing on the Steam Deck, and it feels right at home on the platform.

Death can hold up to three weapons at a time, with his trusty scythe always taking up one of the slots. There are multiple versions of the scythe to wield, and you are given a chance to use a different one at the start of each run. The traditional version works well enough, but types focusing on speed or power will appeal to different players.

Have a Nice Death game

The other two slots in your arsenal are taken up by either Cloak Weapons or Spells. Cloak Weapons are side weapons that typically are infused with some kind of power. One of my favorite options was a spear that can be infused with poison. Spells are self-explanatory magical attacks that require mana to use. Again, these come in a variety of options with different side-effects. Mana can be recharged either over time, or by hitting an enemy with your regular attacks. There are over 70 different attacks that you can find between the two options. As is usual with the genre, though, finding them is completely random, and there's no guarantee you will like what you do find. You just need to be able to adapt to the options at hand.

There are two ways for you to increase the power of the weapons you are wielding. The most common opportunity is by acquiring Curses found throughout the game. These are given to Death by Mr. T. O'Shah, Death Inc's Health and Safety Inspector. He is hanging out in each department, or you can visit him specifically by going to the H.R. Office Floor when given the option. Curses are buffs that can be applied to Spells, Cloak Weapons, the scythe or even Death himself. They come in an assortment of options and can really improve your chances of survival with the right luck. However, some of them also contain negative effects that could raise the difficulty significantly. These negative buffs can be voided out if you have an Anti-Penalty card on hand, or you can attempt to get a better card by using a Curse Re-Roll card on one of your options.

The other option you have for improving your weapons is by visiting the Control Room. This specialty floor doesn't appear all the time, so it's important to go there when given the chance. On this floor, you are given the chance to improve the stats on the three items you currently have through spending Soulary, which is the basic currency of the game, or Prismium, a more advanced currency that is rare to find. You can also spend them at the Shop, which also only appears once per department as well. Here you can buy new Cloak Weapons or Spells, health or even a Curse. Making good use of both floors is critically important to being able to make it to the end of the game.

Even on its easiest setting, Have a Nice Death is a tough title to clear. It's not the stages themselves that are too troubling, but the Sorrows boss fights that tend to end my runs. They require a deft combination of pattern recognition and twitch reflexes to survive. As par for the course for the genre, the more time you spend attempting each boss, the more you'll learn. What once seemed insurmountable will eventually be clearable. Constantly learning and improving is one of my favorite aspects of the roguelite, and it's well represented here.

Have a Nice Death game

When you inevitably die, you can use gold ingots that are picked-up from defeating bigger enemies to unlock new weapons and items from the shop. Once purchased, these items will now be able to be found within the game. The prices of these items in the shop can be lowered by completing specific tasks such as beating a boss a set amount of times or dealing a certain amount of damage over time. The newly unlocked wares are also factored into the contract signing mechanic. Upon starting a new run, you are given the option to sign a contract. These binding agreements offer a variety of benefits, such as being able to start with a Spell or be given a handful of Soulary. However, you may need to also complete a task such as clearing a set number of enemies under five minutes, and failure to do so will result in a punishment.

Have a Nice Death is filled with wonderful macabre visuals and some absolutely fantastic animation. The color palette skews dark but splashes of more vivid colors give each department their own feel. The designs of the Sorrows fit right at home with their departments as well. The head of the Toxic Food Processing Department looks like an evil version of the iconic Bob's Big Boy mascot and Gordon Grimes from the Industrial Pollution department is appropriately slimy. It's the silky smooth animation that really caught my eye, though. Death animates extremely well, and all of his attacks boast unique moves. The boss battles have the same level of care put into their moves, which is great for honing in on their patterns. I would have appreciated some more variety with the underlings, especially once they start repeating in later levels, but even those guys still look and animate well.

Playing on the Steam Deck, I don't really have many technical issues to report. It's Deck Verified, so it is to be expected that it runs well on the device. The only annoying issue I repeatedly had was some slight lag during the later levels. Specifically during the more intense boss fights, there was times where a minor delay popped up while they were attacking. With how difficult these fights could be, it is something I would like to see patched out. Besides that, though, I don't recall any other major issues during my time with the title.

Have a Nice Death game

In a tight, overly-crowded genre, Have a Nice Death manages to stand out just enough for fans to take notice. It looks fantastic, and the gameplay feels great. You have an abundance of attacks to wield, and the title does a great job of weaving all of them in. However, as fun as the corporate skewering can be, the plot and character development can't quite match the level of something like Hades. As you make run after run, the side characters become easier and easier to ignore. As always with the genre, though, if you are willing to deal with an intense challenge, you'll more than likely have a good time cleaning up Death Incorporated.

Our ratings for Have a Nice Death on PC out of 100 (Ratings FAQ)
With a gloomy, but vivid, visual palette and fantastic animation, Have a Nice Death is surprisingly gorgeous. Some additional enemy variety would have been nice to see.
As long as you are down with what roguelites are all about, you'll likely have a fun time here. The difficulty can be frustrating at times, but the game itself plays well.
Single Player
The overall mission of fixing up Death Incorporated is nothing to write home about, but the title does a solid job of lambasting corporate culture.
Outside of the occasional minor lag, runs well on the Steam Deck.
Have a Nice Death may not quite reach the upper levels of the genre, but it's still a fun, well-designed game that will appeal to fans of challenging roguelites.
Have a Nice Death
Have a Nice Death box art Platform:
Our Review of Have a Nice Death
The Verdict:
Game Ranking
Have a Nice Death is ranked #575 out of 1889 total reviewed games. It is ranked #8 out of 38 games reviewed in 2023.
574. Chernobylite
575. Have a Nice Death
576. Terra Nil

Have a Nice Death
10 images added 71 days ago
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