With SO many roguelite action-platformers available right now, each one I play has to offer *something* special to keep me invested. With Death or Treat, it was the wonderful visuals that initially drew me in, especially since it’s VERY clearly inspired by the likes of The Nightmare Before Christmas (which I just so happen to love). However, whilst there’s no doubting that the game is a looker, a lack of depth in its gameplay and an emphasis on grinding can make it feel a little dull to play.

Check out some screenshots down below:

Death or Treat puts players in the role of Scary, a cute little ghost that owns a sweet shop known as Ghost Mart in the spooky town of HallowTown. Unfortunately, the corporation Faceboo and its villainous leader Fackerburg have been taking business away from small-time shop owners, so things are a little tough. Taking actions into his own ghostly hands, Scary decides to take down those higher up bigwigs himself and help restore HallowTown to its former, homegrown glory.

It’s a fun little tale that certainly goes all out on the puns, so players will undoubtedly have a few little smiles at the jokes it likes to make throughout. Don’t get me wrong, it never feels particularly deep (despite its heavy capitalism theme), but it does more than enough to keep players invested in Scary’s plight.

Your main goal in Death or Treat is to bring back the businesses that had previously been found in HallowTown, which is done by gathering a variety of resources from across the game world and then investing them in each shop. This means traversing through a variety of environments, grabbing the collectible candy that’s scattered around, and beating up the enemies in your path to grab loot, all whilst evading the occasional hazard and jumping through some platforming segments. And when you die? You’ll be transported back to the HallowTown. It’s your typical roguelite formula really, with the player becoming stronger by investing in the shops in the town to unlock new gear and buffs for Scary.

“Most roguelites always give you that little something to keep you motivated to play on, but Death or Treat lacked that incentive.”

Unfortunately, the whole loot system is a bit unbalanced, making progress feel difficult at times. Whilst you can take loot back with you to HallowTown when you die, you can only actually take a limited selection of items. Whilst this isn’t such a big problem on a short run, it can become frustrating when you go on a longer run and have to give up a ton of items. Furthermore, the loot you gather is completely random, so you could end up looking for a particular item for ages before you manage to come across it. It can make unlocking some shops take much longer than it needs to, which in turn slows down your progress in the game.

The upgrades you get to unlock are pretty expensive too, so you can expect to do a fair bit of grinding before you’re able to get the best weapons and buffs. Of course, this is natural of the roguelite genre, but I couldn’t help but to find that the core gameplay loop of Death or Treat lacked the depth and buzz to really encourage me to push on and unlock everything – especially when combined with the awkward loot mechanics. Most roguelites always give you that little something to keep you motivated to play on, but Death or Treat lacked that incentive.

At least exploring the world is enjoyable, with a good variety of areas to uncover that bring with them plenty of platforming challenges and enemies to take down. Scary is pretty effective in combat and can string together attacks with ease, whilst the fact that you don’t take damage when connecting directly with an enemy means there’s an emphasis on mobility and using your position to your advantage to take enemies out. Admittedly, this could make it easy to exploit enemy attacks early on and keep yourself out of range of damage, but the stronger groups of enemies provide a much sterner test (and especially the bosses who can easily wipe you out if you aren’t careful, that first boss took me ages to finally beat). The only issue with combat was that it could feel a bit too basic, and whilst the additional weapons and abilities at your disposal do spice things up a little, they don’t stop it from getting a bit repetitive the longer you spend with the game.

Check out some screenshots down below:

I was a big fan of the visuals though, with Death or Treat embracing a cutesy cartoon-like style that reminded me a LOT of The Nightmare Before Christmas thanks to the heavy Halloween vibes (even the candy you collect looks just like Jack Skellington’s face). The environments are packed with quirky charm (especially in the way they mock the likes of Facebook, Snapchat, and TikTok), whilst the character and enemy design feel befitting of the game’s kooky yet spooky vibe.

However, whilst it’s pretty to look at, Death or Treat did lack the depth and excitement to keep me hooked in for long. Whilst nothing in the game was necessarily bad, the grind-focused progression and lack of overall variety left me wanting more. It didn’t take too long before facing off against the same sort of enemies over and over again got dull, and with no guarantee you’d get the loot you actually needed, I found myself feeling a little bored – especially since you couldn’t take ALL of the loot you gathered from a run back to HallowTown.

Death or Treat Review

Death or Treat has a charming Halloween vibe, but its repetitive gameplay mechanics and awkward loot system do make it hard to recommend when compared to other roguelites. It’s not that anything is bad at all, but rather that it lacks to depth and creativity to keep players hooked in for long – especially with its tiring emphasis on gathering randomised loot. It just doesn’t do anything I haven’t seen done much better in other roguelite titles.

The visuals are great and the whole ‘us versus the corporation’ vibe of HallowTown was fun to see unfold, but Death or Treat just lacked that special *something* to stand out in what is a very crowded genre.

Developer: Saona Studios
Publisher: Saona Studios, Hawthorn Games, Perp Games
Platform(s): PC (Reviewed), PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S
Website: https://store.steampowered.com/app/2096620/Death_or_Treat/