Death or Treat review – It’s definitely not the latter

Death or Treat is the latest entry into the 2D side-scrolling Rogue-lite genre. Read our review of Death or Treat today.
Death Or Treat Necrosoft
Image: Saona Studios

There are tons of side-scrolling rogue-lite games out in the wild right now due to their recent popularity in games like Hollow Knight and Hades. What makes these games so popular is that they can be tackled in long stretches or in smaller runs that help you inch toward your next goal. However you play, it’s usually a lot of fun to see how much easier it is to take on previous levels with a stronger character.

With so many of these titles out now, it’s not enough to just create a fun gameplay loop that encourages players to keep coming back, but also a compelling world that’s fun to be in. In Death or Treat, players take on the role of a traveling candy sales ghost named Scary as he stops in Hallowtown. It’s a pretty interesting concept that is self-admitted taking inspiration from The Nightmare Before Christmas‘s world.

While on the surface it appears like your typical 2D side-scrolling rogue-lite, there are admittedly some shiny features under the hood. On the other hand, these fun and interesting mechanics come at the cost of smoke and warning lights flashing from pretty early in the game.

Free your customers from the apps

Joe Bite Them Response Response Death Or Treat
Image: Saona Studios

The premise is actually really cute, it’s basically Hollow Knight meets the world of Jack Skellington, with everything in Death or Treat being Halloween themed. It’s a fun style choice that represents the best holiday of the year, and it’s sure to vibe with players who are looking to celebrate the spooky times in the middle of spring.

It delivers on this promise as far as characters go, with all of the shopkeepers and other NPCs being based on famous figures, but in costume. For example, Joe Biden has become a vampire named “Joe Bite Them,” an innovative pumpkin man in a turtleneck called “Jobs,” and a pumpkin with legs called “Pumpkin Gates” operating a company called Necrosoft out of his frat house garage.

The base city is pretty small, with five different shops that players can use, but they need to be unlocked by investing resources. Thankfully they’re all pretty easy to unlock except for the general store, which becomes available once you get past the first boss. The strict drops of some materials from certain bosses made this a general headache and kept me from progressing for over five hours.

Death Or Treat Skeleton Green
Image: Saona Studios

Because I could make no other improvements to my gear, due to the fact I needed the first boss’s materials, I just had to hope I would figure out his moveset and have enough health. Having to run through the preceding levels isn’t the most difficult thing in the world, but it can drain your health before you even get a chance to fight the boss.

This is also an issue when you just need one material from them and you haven’t unlocked the general store, or you just don’t have enough resources to craft it. You’ll have to take on all the fighters again with no guarantee that defeating them again will give you the necessary resources. While it extends gameplay, there’s no other real incentive to grind like that except for crafting ingredients that aren’t guaranteed.

It’s not a grind most will enjoy

Death Or Treat Materials
Image: Saona Studios

Unfortunately, there are other issues too, with the world overall feeling kind of muted in terms of color and themes. While there are the occasional neon signs, most of the background is pretty muted and I can’t remember anything but the occasional brand joke that stood out to me. That seems to be a lot of where this game is focused, though, making meme-y jokes that are sometimes good for a chuckle, admittedly.

The combat itself is pretty easy once you get the hang of it, there are 16 weapons to unlock, with two different attacks available for each. Getting better weapons is largely where your increase in power comes from, but the same issues with crafting materials apply, extending the gameplay by another hour or two. at minimum, since you’ll need to keep doing runs.

One of the highlights in the combat is the enemies, with their animations and designs reminiscent of cartoons that I grew up with in the early 2000s. Since I had to have done 100 runs through the early levels, I became more familiar with those characters and their animations. The same can be said for other specific examples, like Frank Smith in Hallowtown. There are some annoying ones though, like Scary’s dog incessant barking every 10 seconds you’re in the city, which you never get used to.

Death Or Treat Pumpkin Head Fight
Image: Saona Studios

Overall, Death or Treat feels kind of rushed and like it might be missing some planned features that are seen in other games of this genre. One instance is the fact that each level leads to the next in a linear path, but there are multiple floors on top of or below that hallway. These aren’t paths and they just block the player from walking any further. It makes me wonder if these were once branching paths, as is common in the side-scroller rogue-lite genre.

Add that to the myriad of bugs I encountered, including text being missing from certain prompts, making them impossible to knowingly choose. The enemies will sometimes get stuck in their patrol pattern, unable to notice me standing right in front of them. While the game tries to do some interesting things, I was often too distracted by the issues to focus too much on what I liked.

Hopefully, it’ll be fixed by Halloween

Death Or Treat Riptok
Image: Saona Studios

The Final Word

In a world filled with 2D rogue-lites competing for our attention, Death or Treat isn’t able to stand up to the competition. There seems to be a myriad of visual and technical bugs that are keeping this game from reaching its full potential, but even that seems to be only half of what it could be. It’s not a bad game, but players should likely wait until it’s fixed and goes on a discount before they decide to purchase.

6

Try Hard Guides was provided with a PC review copy of this game. Find more detailed looks at popular and upcoming titles in the Game Reviews section of our website!

Christian Harrison

Christian Harrison

Christian Harrison is a writer and gamer, the latter he's been doing for the last two decades. When not working, he enjoys streaming the latest show or spending time with his family and friends. Contact: Christian@tryhardguides.com

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