Death Or Treat


There are definitely a few hours of ghostly platforming fun in Death or Treat, but we hit a problem ...‍


You are Scary the ghost, heading to Hallowtown in his Ghost Mart wagon to sell his special sweets (candy) to the locals. But a surprise awaits! The town is deserted, and the residents of Hallowtown are all addicted to Storyum, a fashion drug distributed by the evil businessman Fackerberg from his Darkchat factory, run from his HQ in Faceboo! (I think I see where this is getting its inspiration from...)

Scary's first course of action is to help the remaining locals by reopening their stores. The most important of these is Joe Bite Them (I see what they did there), a vampire who is capable of bringing you back to life (and selling you extra inventory slots.) The currency is the candy dropped by enemies, and you're gonna be needing a lot of it.

Surrounded by enemies, but Scary the ghost is coming out on top.

Playing as a 'roguelite' (GROAN), and similar to the highly-regarded Hollow Knight and Have a Nice Death, should Scary takes too much damage it's back to the start, with only a few candies and other scraps dropped by ghosties intact. These drops include pieces of wood, pumpkin seeds, metal nuggets, bat wings and umm.. cerebrospinal plasma and brains. All upgrades use these, and the game's roguelite aspect comes into play as you must decide what to keep after each run, because initially your inventory is just one slot.

Enemies vary from ghosts and skeletons to pumpkin-headed zombies and hounds, vampire bats through to big wifebeater-wearing thugs with baseball bats! All but the largest can be stunned and this ability, learning the way they behave and avoiding their attacks is vital.

Frank's shop is the place to head for new weapons.

The game doesn't have much in terms of sound other than swishes of your weapon attacks and the groans of enemies, but the music is absolutely top notch!

As with many roguelite (GROAN) games the levels are procedurally generated, so you'll see the same sections over and over again–especially the badly overused level end screen that usually has a pointless dead end to it that I've always been convinced will hide something of use one day, but never has! Thanks to the mostly monochrome 2D graphics it's not always clear what you can stand on and what you can't, which as you're a floaty ghost seems a bit daft, but there you go–that's game designers for you. Scary controls accurately and is just on the right side of "twitchy", and has light and heavy attacks (X & Y) and a combo that launches enemies into the air, which is handy, but foreground objects will sometimes obscure enemies, which always seems a bit unfair.

There are lots of weapons to unlock, but we only ever got our hands on three of them.

It may be set in dingy locations but this is a smoothly-animated, bright and fun game that has three glaring problems: Choosing your weapon and skill before every run becomes a chore, and I have no idea why this is necessary. On both Xboxes we tried it on it had occasional failures to load after dying, but the worst thing is the Boss battles (even the very first one!) that were frankly, mentally hard to the point of sapping all enjoyment from the game. Being roguelite (GROAN-the "groans" are for this horrendously overused game mechanic), you have to beat these bosses on every run-through, which to me, is about as much fun as toothache. Roguelikes and Roguelites need to be very carefully tested, and it's quite apparent from the first play that Death or Treat wasn't.

Skeletons are surprisingly tough!

In a lot of poorly tested games, once you’ve beaten the first boss the upgrades available make the game easier, but the longer you think about that, the dumber it gets. Sadly that is very much the case here. There are definitely a few hours of platforming fun in Death or Treat, but most gamers won't get past that first boss fight (a couple of our reviewers couldn't) and it becomes a bit like banging your head against a wall and complaining that you have a headache. This game is just too flippin' hard, and it plays almost like the developer thought you must have finished Have a Nice Death and thought it was way too easy. This makes it impossible for us to recommend it at a price of £19.99–unless, that is, you're some sort of gaming ninja or a ghost-loving masochist with more money than sense.

Thanks to Saona Studios, Perp Games and PressEngine