[REVIEW] Have A Nice Death – Beating the living shit out of me

When was the last time a game really got under your skin? Like… infuriating you to a point where hardware starts flying? In my case, that was mere minutes ago. And if I’m totally honest about it, chances are that it’ll happen again in the next couple of hours. The reason: this cute lookin’ game called Have A Nice Death. This Dead Cells/Hollow Knight crossover might come across as a beautiful and fun experience, but woe to all fooled by its appearance. This roguelike RNG “who’s the boss now?” action platformer can be the death of you.

Honestly, Have A Nice Death kinda took me by surprise. I’ve heard about it previously – thanks to my significant other – but I never really thought about it afterward. Until last week, when this gorgeous-looking game unexpectedly made it to my Recommended-list on Steam. Immediately stricken by its design – reminding me of Hollow Knight, another gem that I enjoyed very much – I decided to whip out the old credit card and grant the devs their Early Access fee. Little did I know that Have A Nice Death would cause me to almost go fucknuts today.

And truly, the title should have mentally prepped me for it, but it didn’t. At least, not to that extent. With an endearing intro – showing the once-mighty Grim Reaper diminished to a mere desk jockey by his own employees – Have A Nice Death didn’t really come across as a brutally punishing game. But it didn’t take long for me to figure that out. That rebellious staff sure knows how to keep you in your giant seat in the CEO lounge, and they will use lethal force to accomplish it.

That doesn’t mean that you’re meant to just accept that. Equipped with your trusty Book of Souls and your iconic scythe, you’re still a force to be reckoned with. But ironically, even the Grim Reaper can snuff it, and that’s exactly what Have A Nice Death sets out to prove. Because, yes, you’ll die a lot. A LOT! You’ll be pulling the short end of the stick so goddamn often that you’ll be wondering if Magic Design Studios actually wants you to fail miserably. Yet still, you keep slicing, dodging, dying, and hoping that the next run will be less punishing and more generous. Ahhh… wishful thinking at its finest. Because it feels sooooo good, weirdly enough.

You see, it’s not that enemies are brutally overpowered, per se. In fact, most of the minor adversaries are fairly easy to deal with. A few well-placed hits will send them straight back to the spirit realm (where they already are, I guess). It’s just that you, the mighty hand of Death himself, can share that same fate. It only takes a few lapses of judgment and ill-timed dodges to see yourself being turned to dust, sending you back to your office. There are ways the prolong your stay in any of the departments you decide to visit, but those opportunities are very scarce.

Have A Nice Death

And that might be the biggest turnoff Have A Nice Death suffers from. Opportunities to heal yourself in between fights are first of all randomly generated, and second of all almost non-existent. Vanquished foes sometimes drop a small number of healing orbs. A visit to the store – if it pops up at all – might also help you replenish some health lost, at the cost of ‘soulery’. But other than that, you’re often depending on the game’s generosity, and Have A Nice Death usually isn’t. That also goes for new weapons and upgrades, which can be unlocked by spending Gold Ingots before every run. Just don’t expect to grab some and skedaddle, because these also appear randomly in-game and can’t be transferred to your next attempt.

All these factors combined make Have A Nice Death a lot more punishing than some like it to be. Granted, the game is still in Early Access and Magic Design Studios is making adjustments left and right. And honestly, stuff like projectiles being hurled at you off-screen is really something that should be looked into. But if the difficulty spike and the amount of healing options are things that the team is not willing to adjust, you’re really gonna have to consider certain things. Things like: Should I visit a physician and have my blood pressure checked first? Does the eye candy justify a few broken controllers? Am I really risking my mental health for the best elevator music in gaming history? In my case… YES! Abso-effin’-lutely. But what about you?

I shall leave you to ponder…

It'll be the death of you
The Healers
The Hollow Knight-like visuals are to die for
Plays smooth as a scythe through a butterface
Standing in an elevator has never been more entertaining
A good run can be so damn fulfilling (if the game grants you one)
The Killers
Health regen options are way too scarce
Off-screen threats are a cheap way of making you suffer
8.5