Have a Nice Death review – A clever look at serious topics

Have a Nice Death Review coverMagic Design Studios

Have a Nice Death offers players tongue-in-cheek humor about corporate employment while diving deep into the effects of burnout, depression, and world-life-balance struggles.

Roguelikes and side-scroller games have become increasingly popular over the past several years, with titles like Hades and Hollow Knight keeping fans busy. However, while some games mix emotional life lessons with progressive dungeon battling and skill building, Have a Nice Death takes it to a new level.

Originally launched in early access during spring of 2022, Have a Nice Death combines Roguelike mechanics with stunning 2D, hand-drawn images. Players take on the role of Death, Founder and CEO of Death Incorporated, as he attempts to restore order to the organization tasked with handling souls in the afterlife.

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While the cheesy jokes about burnout, time management, and career success start out as a tongue-in-cheek comedy, players will find themselves connecting with Death and learning about the damage these factors can have on people. As Death works his way over and over through the departments, it becomes clear this is not just a stunning game – but a learning opportunity and eye-opener disguised as a video game.

Have a Nice Death – Key Details

  • Price: $24.99 USD
  • Developer: Magic Design Studios
  • Release Date: March 22, 2023
  • Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PC via Steam

Have a Nice Death trailer

Cut through work with your trusty Scythe

Have a Nice Death has a fluid and rewarding combat style that makes use of Roguelike mechanics in a satisfying way. Players must complete runs through the departments of Death Incorporated, destroying bosses and collecting items that can be used for temporary buffs or unlock options for new runs later down the road.

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Players can find and use 70 different weapons of all different styles. My personal favorites are the dual and range weapons that allow for quick counterattacks and the ability to reach enemies hovering above or on platforms.

Additionally, the combination of dashes, Cruses, and combos creates a fast-paced and enjoyable experience that leaves you ready to tackle the next level. Unleashing a Frenzy during a boss fight is particularly satisfying, offering the chance to deal solid damage alongside standard attacks.

Anyone ready for Koffee?

The jokes and office commentary in Have a Nice Death are extremely relatable – especially the inclusion of “Koffee”, the healing beverage players can find in their dungeon runs, or see as an effectless animation when Death is idle.

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Players will find corporate office humor in every area of Death Incorporated, from Pump Quinn’s helpful banter after every failed run, to stacks of paperwork and reception desks crowding the main floors of the building.

Every character in Have a Nice Death is filled with pep talks, advice, and encouragement for Death as he works to get things back under control. However, this is also where the game takes a surprising turn, using jokes and witty humor to nail home the real problems with burnout and mental health neglect in corporate settings.

Have a Nice Death combatMagic Design Studios
Swing through epic combos in Have a Nice Death

Wicked sharp awareness disguised in gameplay

One of the best aspects of Have a Nice Death that took me completely by surprise was the sensitive approach to mental health. Very early on, the narrative exposes players to concepts like ‘burnout’ while commenting on the expectations many encounters when attempting to succeed in the workplace. Have a Nice Death doesn’t use these sensitive problems as joke fodder, but instead provides definitions, and explains the impact they have on mental health.

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At first, it was easy to laugh at a joke about efficiency or find dark enjoyment in the characters actively commenting on the absurdity of their lives and duties, but the further into the game I got, the more my heart went out to Death, and to all the characters trapped in a vicious cycle with no relief.

Games that explore mental health or impactful struggles are an important way to bring awareness to real situations people face every day. For many, the battles Death faces in Have a Nice Death are daily realities, and it’s moving and sobering when a laugh dies on your lips after readying a description newly added to the glossary.

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Death Burnout Have a Nice DeathMagic Design Studios
Death hits burnout when the Sorrows act out

Hidden secrets everywhere

Have a Nice Death is filled with content, from the 15-hour main storyline to the multiple endings players can find through clever detective work. In addition to the main story, bonus content, ranging difficulty levels, and plenty of different ways to tackle combat make it a fantastic game to deep-dive into, or play through multiple times from start to finish.

I found myself constantly stopping to explore every nook and cranny of each map when doing runs, and was always rewarded with new encounters, hidden items, and charming back and foreground artwork. The desire to stop and appreciate the scenery or discover everything possible only added to the thrill of each playthrough.

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Verdict 5/5

Have a Nice Death is a beautifully drawn, fantastically put-together, emotional ride of an experience. It is a game every Roguelike lover needs in their library and is an excellent option for those interested in trying the genre out.

The characters, story, and messages scattered between well-crafted gameplay and thoughtful world-building make every hour feel satisfying, and the desire to know more about the narrative compels players to keep pushing through each new run. It is a treat to play and consumed my attention the same way I fall into a good book. Anyone who enjoys dry humor, interesting learning opportunities, and excellent combat will want to take up a scythe and hop into the action.

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Reviewed on the PC via Steam

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