Also on: PC, Xbox Series X
Developer: Bytten Studio
From the moment you boot up Death or Treat, it?s clear where all the care and attention went. You?re greeted with a really nice-looking animation sequence that looks far better than nearly any other game you could name. It?s rare that a game that boasts of being hand-drawn or hand-painted actually looks amazing, but in this case, you could honestly say that about Death or Treat and not be exaggerating.
Unfortunately, it?s all downhill from that point. For one thing, none of it is as nice to look at as the opening animation. The levels are dimly-lit, with a mostly green and black colour scheme that makes every new dungeon look almost exactly the same. On top of that, the game?s font choice is headache-inducing, a swirly mess that becomes more annoying to read the more text there is on screen. It?s baffling that a game that starts off so well could devolve so quickly, but Death or Treat is proof that it happens.
The gameplay is no better ? though at least the game doesn?t give you some false hope of being something good, then turning around and dashing those hopes. Rather, it establishes right away that it?s going to be an uninteresting 2D platformer, and it doesn?t ever really waver from that.
There are hints of ideas, like the fact that it?s a roguelite, which every time you?re setting off on a run to pick up candies, you?re facing a different level. Likewise, there are some slightly hidden areas in every new level, which hints at some metroidvania influences. In practice, though, you?re just hacking and slashing away until you?ve found as many candies as you can, and then moving on to the next room, where you do that again. Theoretically you?re making the game more interesting with each new run by unlocking new powers, but between the repetitive gameplay and the sameness of all the rooms, the game never really escapes the feeling that you?re just doing the same level over and over again.
It all makes you wish that there was nothing notable about Death or Treat, so that you could just write it off completely. But it?s hard not to go back to that intro cutscene and see how much care went into creating it, and then wondering what went wrong. It makes you conclude that these developers might have a great game in them ? it?s just definitely not this one.
Perpetual provided us with a Death or Treat PS5 code for review purposes.