Have A Nice Death, developed by the big brains over at Magic Design Studios and produced by Gearbox Games, is not a game I would typically play. It’s a roguelike. I hate roguelikes. I suck at timing and threading through enemy attacks with spontaneous precision.
However, Have A Nice Death is a gorgeous-looking game. That’s pretty much the only reason I picked it up and started playing: it looks stunning.
It turns out that the featured game in this Have A Nice Death review is a well-structured roguelike game. A surprisingly exciting narrative runs throughout, and there are more than a few side quests and character backstories for you to uncover.
Part of the reason I don’t like roguelikes is the insane boss fights that one must suffer through in a masochistic fashion, but also because very few of them have any story to explore.
They are usually little more than sophisticated quick-time strategy games that attract speed-running audiences. In contrast, I am generally drawn to story-driven, immersive games.
The hand-drawn 2D art style of Have A Nice Death is definitely what drew me to the game. Still, the impressive story I found there, the hilarious characters throughout, and the unique roguelike mechanics kept me around for longer than I expected.
Let’s talk about what gives Have A Nice Death such charm.
It’s not just the crisp graphics and visuals of Have A Nice Death that leads your eye roving over the screen, absorbing the many details hidden in every area. It’s that beautiful hand-drawn 2D art style that keeps you more than engaged.
Each location is distinctly separate from the last and designed in intricate, unique ways. It’s 2D, so don’t expect too much high-definition, ray tracing, cutting-edge, 4k nonsense flying at your eyeballs.
But that doesn’t mean it’s not a visually stunning game. The 2D art style sometimes feels more like 2.5D in the game’s later levels, which hypes you up for the final bosses.
I had no qualms with Have A Nice Death’s visuals. I thought they were exceedingly well done and crafted with care. I think the visuals of Have A Nice Death are one of the game’s main selling points, as players don’t get this kind of hand-drawn art style too often anymore.
The Music Of Hell
It is surprisingly more catchy than you might think. Each level that you enter will have a unique soundtrack. The music you encounter helps immerse you in each environment’s atmosphere.
And the audio designers did a great job crafting each soundtrack to capture each area’s essence.
The pollution department has music that sounds like garbage cans banging together with industrial machines clanging in the background.
The physical addictions department, which features such enemies as monstrous pills and evil doctors, has a funky, upbeat pop soundtrack which I imagine is what Ritalin would sound like if you could plug it into a sound system. And the warfare department sounds like hip-hop, and the military had a baby.
My favorite little jingle in the game, however, plays every time you die and reappear in your main office. After Death is teleported behind his desk in headquarters, you hear a chorus greet you with, “Welcome to the af-ter-life!”
I hate dying, and in roguelikes, I die, like, 12 times an hour.
Popping back into Death Inc.’s headquarters and hearing the little jingle always made me at least smirk and lessened the anger of another death.
The Hellish Narrative
Would you believe an interesting story is hidden within Have A Nice Death? Would you further believe that there are numerous side missions that involve the many employees of Death Inc.?
It’s true. Have A Nice Death has a nice story. Reminiscent of the depth of Hollow Knight.
You play as the Grim Reaper, Death itself. Death has been pretty slammed with work lately. He thinks he’s more than do for a vacation. Unfortunately, people on Earth keep dying, usually in wildly stupid ways.
So Death comes up with a plan: he summons several spirits from the underworld and tells them to do his job for him.
They are to reap the souls of humans on Earth, and Death himself will simply manage some light paperwork. The goal being that, eventually, Death will transfer all of the responsibilities to his employees so that he can kick back and relax.
Alas, before Death realizes it, he is drowning in mountains of paperwork. He has become an employee of his own business. While working on documents, he also didn’t notice that his spiritual creations were slowly siphoning his power away.
The beginning of Have A Nice Death is the Grim Reaper realizing enough is enough. He leaves his desk and mountains of paperwork and sets out to fix Hell.
Upon encountering his other employees, he discovers that the spirits he summoned are indiscriminately reaping souls on Earth, and Hell is full to bursting. It is up to Death to set his business in order and bring his wayward employees back under heel.
The humor of seeing a small Grim Reaper surrounded by piles of paperwork is not lost on me.
The weird office environment in Hell–with skeletons and demons conversing around water coolers, and zombies and other undead abominations chilling in the break room–is perfectly created. Have A Nice Death is a fantastic dark comedy.
It’s not as if all your employees have turned against you. Many of your most loyal employees remain dedicated to serving you. These employees will offer side quests, items, and plenty of comedic breaks during your time exploring Have A Nice Death.
The user interface of Have A Nice Death is nothing to be impressed about. It illustrates all of your items and needs in thoughtful layouts. I wasn’t too attached to the UI until I suffered a penalty that removed all user interface aspects from my screen.
Now that was a serious struggle.
In the upper left-hand corner, you will find your health, mana, and weapons. In the upper right-hand corner, you will find your in-game currencies, and that’s virtually all you’ll see when playing Have A Nice Day.
But try to survive a boss fight without being able to check those features, and you’re in for some trouble.
Moving The Game Along
The progress I made in Have A Nice Death was minimal. I died a lot. But dying is more than expected in Have A Nice Death. You can gain perks and get stronger upon each death.
But you don’t get stronger fast enough, in my opinion. I had to grind and die many, many times to see a noticeable benefit. I needed to grind to get better weapons, items, and help because I suck at roguelikes.
If I were better at predicting attacks and adjusting to each boss’s different phases, I wouldn’t need to die so many times to get more robust base stats.
Alas, we can’t all be good at roguelikes.
Not to mention, the only way to experience these side quests and extra bits of lore in Have A Nice Death is by dying over and over again.
You will find that some bosses change entirely when you meet them a second time; I was more than confused when I went into a Brad boss fight and found that I was fighting someone named Barnaby Proudfoot instead.
And I encountered more than a few secret bosses during random runs, though I survived none of them. None of these variations move the overall narrative along, but they spice up each run so that you never feel too repetitive in Have A Nice Death.
Over And Over Again
The replay factor for Have A Nice Death is incredibly high. It is, after all, a roguelike, and they are meant to be played through many times.
Hell, you get an achievement the first time you die and start the game over again. And thanks to the hidden bosses, secret areas, and enemy variations, repeatedly playing never feels stagnant.
Not only can you pick different levels when you reach the end of a stage, but even levels you’ve played a dozen times before can still turn out differently.
The ultimate replay factor of Have A Nice Death comes when you realize that there are multiple endings.
When playing a game on Steam, you earn Steam trading cards. It’s a pretty stupid concept if you ask me, but it allows gamers to collect digital trading cards of notable characters from the games they play.
When I looked at the trading cards for Have A Nice Death, I didn’t know who half the characters were–and I had just beaten the game!
After almost 16 hours of gameplay, I just beat the final boss, and I didn’t know who half of these people were. It made me realize that Have A Nice Death is meant to be played over and over and over again.
There are secret bosses that you only unlock once you’ve beaten the game multiple times, and the true ending is only unlocked when you defeat the bosses in a specific sequence a certain number of times.
One of my few gripes with Have A Nice Death is that very little is told to the player. So many mechanics, bosses, and features feel secret or hidden simply because the game communicates nothing to you about them.
Had I known there were multiple endings, obscure characters, and things I hadn’t discovered, I would have tried to be more thorough during my playthroughs. And since there are no helpful hints in the game, I have no idea where to go to meet the characters I missed.
Alternatives To Death
Hades is a roguelike dungeon crawler developed by Supergiant, the geniuses behind killer indie titles like Pyre and Bastion. It’s an action-packed title featuring a semi-immortal protagonist who’s trying to fight his way out of Hell. Its art style differs wildly from Have A Nice Death but is equally unique and stunning.
Slay The Spire
Slay The Spire is a deck-building roguelike called ‘horribly addicting’ by more than one influential streamer. Much like Have A Nice Death, no two runs are meant to be the same.
With different routes toward the exit and many enemies standing in your way, Slay The Spire offers the same, if not more, random encounters than Have A Nice Death. The addition of relics and other powerups makes Slay The Spire much more intricate than it initially appears.
Dead Cells, developed and produced by Motion Twin, is another roguelike with a distinct visual art style and more action than you’ll know how to handle. The boss fights are just as brutal as Have A Nice Death, and the enemies are just as numerous.
It’s a 2D style just like Have A Nice Death, and features a narrative that’s as mysterious as it is violent. Inspired by Metriodvania titles, Dead Cells has overwhelmingly positive reviews on Steam and still leads an active community.
The Final Verdict
I give Have A Nice Death a 7/10.
Its art style is gorgeous, its characters humorous, and its play on a hellish office environment is quite clever. I more than enjoyed running into characters during my playthroughs to hear what goofy conundrum they currently found themselves in. The customization of weapons and spells makes for unique combos and allows for varied strategies.
Have A Nice Death is a genuinely fun rougelike with gorgeous art, quirky characters, and punishing boss fights.
However, the slow progress made me feel like I was chipping away at a hefty stone block with each death. That’s probably unique to me, as I suck at roguelikes, but it must be said.
And that I missed half the game despite beating it makes me confused, like my hard-earned efforts were pretty meaningless. After all, I beat the game but never met plenty of characters. I don’t even know how to start looking for them. If Have A Nice Death communicated more instead of dropping players into Hell and quickly abandoning them, I’d be less confused and less disappointed.
If you enjoy roguelikes, I will easily pump this game to an 8.5. But if you’re like me and have poor timing, dodging, or combo skills on the fly, Have A Nice Death is undoubtedly fun, but nothing like the genres you’re used to.
Pros & Cons
- Beautiful art style
- Tons of hidden bosses, levels, weapons
- High replayability
- Tons of dark humor
- A story with at least some depth
- Popping music
- Tons of hidden bosses, levels, and weapons you don’t know about
- Unforgiving boss fights
- Slow progress through the game
- Roguelikes suck
Question: Who’s the final boss of Have A Nice Death?
Answer: Whoa there, buddy. I’m not going to spoil the game for you. Also, technically two of the characters I haven’t met are both the final boss in the game. Think of it like this: who is so oppositely aligned to Death in all existence that they’d be his ultimate enemy?
Question: How do I unlock Barnaby Proudfoot?
Answer: I’ve never encountered him regularly in the first area. I’ve only ever run into Barnaby when taking the elevator straight to his boss fight from Death Inc.’s lobby. You’ll know immediately if you’re fighting Brad or Barnaby when you load into his level, as Barnaby has several metal detectors set up before you fight him.
So, first you need to unlock the elevator that takes you to his floor. Then you need to leave and load back in enough times to RNG his variant boss fight.
Question: What’s the best cloak weapon in the game?
Answer: This one is more subjective to your play style. But I’ve found that weapons that guarantee a pierce or backstab attack are the best to pick up.
Rapiers and daggers are weapons that give these perks. However, if I see poison daggers, I always pick them up. It’s too powerful in boss fights; I can hit them once, then while I’m dogging their next flurry of attacks, their health is slowly draining away.
It’s all the other characters you meet along the way that give Have A Nice Death such charm
It took me 15.7 hours to beat my first run of Have A Nice Death, and I haven’t completed a second. I played it on Steam with my Asus ROG Styx Gaming Laptop.