Have a Nice Death by Magic Design Studios is a roguelike sidescrolling action platformer that places you in the cloak of Death himself as he attempts to regain control of his own soul-reaping mega corporation.

Death is overwhelmed; the sheer amount of paperwork needed for the volume of souls being reaped has made him sedentary, and the several department heads known as “The Sorrows” have become overambitious due his own apathy. So in an effort to avoid burnout, you’ll hunt down each Sorrow in their respective departments and literally whip them into shape. The mash-up of bureaucracy and the supernatural is a familiar and well-liked trapping. The macabre characters you meet are reminiscent of those in a Tim Burton movie, often having glowing, positive personalities while speaking about troubling or horrific topics. But the majority of conversations you’ll hear are mundane office jargon with Halloween buzzwords thrown into the mix. I rarely fully understood what any two characters were talking about and found every attempted joke to be a mile-wide miss.

The spooky designs and incredible animations actually compensate for a lot of the lacking personality of characters and enemies. The Sorrow boss encounters in particular showcase fantastic set pieces that display how deranged your situation is, but the primarily monochrome color palette diminishes their impact slightly. Some enemy attacks and projectiles will break through with neon reds and oranges to help alert you to danger, but many special attacks and effects of your own come with distracting flashing colors. That makes it easy for a fair amount of enemies and attacks to just blend into the background, leaving you unfairly damaged by something you couldn’t see, leading to death, the noun.

Death, the character, is fast and responsive in combat. A number of different scythe weapons grant varied combos, and the secondary weapons and spells you can find on a run can be amazingly helpful in dealing with crowds or wearing down one troublesome enemy. You are also able to find and select curses, which are passive upgrades that sometimes come with penalties like losing access to the map or empowering future enemies. However, your loadout is largely left to the whims of randomization; you don’t even get to choose which of the alternate scythe types you start a run with.

It’s normal in this genre to make the best of what you find on a run, but I found the sense of progression to be generally unforgiving. Certain enemies can hit for ridiculously large amounts of damage, and healing options are both limited and at the whim of your randomly generated paths and enemy drops. Far too often regardless of how many new weapons or items I unlocked for future runs, I felt hamstrung by my options and the game’s stinginess. The fights with the Sorrows are fun encounters that require a bit of study to get through, but the path back to many of them is a long and boring trudge as basic enemies are overused and not as entertaining.

Have a Nice Death overall ends up feeling like a promising game with a number of caveats. A great premise with a lacking plot, an amazing art style but a limited color palette, cool combat and upgrade options but boring enemy encounters and overly difficult progression. In its roughly 15-hour runtime, it can’t seem to avoid tripping over its own cloak. However, it is stuffed with additional content and meant for replayability, so with patience and mastery there’s a chance others may have a nicer time with Death than I did. The game is out March 22 for $24.99 on PC and Nintendo Switch.

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