Death or Treat is a 2D action platformer where the player takes control of a ghost named Scary and must save the day by venturing out into the roguelite world of Hallowtown. On paper, and on first impressions, this is a title that hits all the points required for a solid gameplay experience but in execution stumbles over itself in almost every way possible.
The highlight of the game is without a doubt the graphical presentation. The handpainted artstyle of the environments mixed with the bold and clean avatars is a sight to behold. It also goes well beyond the still shots with detailed animations that are appropriately expressive and fluid. Perhaps the only misstep is the framerate drops that curiously only occur when a treasure chest is opened and a plethora of candy goes flying around the screen. Even the color-work is strategically used across the different biomes in order to emphasis the mood and add splashes of personality without taking away from the minimalist approach.
Unfortunately it is all downhill from here as the rest of the game is marred by poor design, questionable structural decisions and gameplay issues.
Combat for example is a very Jekyll and Hyde syndrome with every element done well being countered with an equal or worse issue. Swinging one of the many unlockable weapons is responsive and feels appropriately weighty but then you realize that the hit boxes for the enemies is terribly inconsistent. There were actually multiple instances where Scary and an enemy were right next to each other but only the enemies attacks were landing and Scary was swinging a weapon through the foe as if they weren’t even there. The enemy AI doesn’t help the poor combat when you can just trail behind them attacking and they will not break their pathing or respond unless they are preprogrammed to turn around and see their attacker.
Additionally, Scary is equipped with a dash that also feels like it should be useful. Unfortunately, the realization quickly hits that there are no iframes so the dash can only be used to avoid damage by literally moving out of the way of an attack. There is also a spell slot that can be used for one of three spells that are upgradeable but never feel like they offer too much beyond the basic attacks.
This is a roguelite so there is an overarching progression meant to assist the player with making progression little by little until they can get further into the game. By collecting candy and various materials stronger weapons can be unlocked, upgrades purchased for the spells and passives increased such a health, regeneration, and slots for returning materials opened.
That final one is very important and one of the main issues with the game, there are too many materials. After a failed run you can see all the materials you have collected and must select only a certain number to bring back to town. No roguelite should have this many, its not enjoyable to look at the next weapon you want and see 6 or more materials required. Oh no, I am missing the bat wings that I left on my last run because I couldn’t calculate it all in advance for when I got that game over screen. Even further than that there is a vendor in town that will let you purchase more rare materials for combinations of other lesser ones. There is a reason more successful roguelites kept to only a few or even just one type of currency in higher numbers, keep it simple.
Players will work their way through four biomes with names such as Riptok and Deviltube, which are obviously takes on names of social media platforms. If the previously mentioned names like Scary, HallowTown or even the title of the game Death or Treat are not enough to get the point across that these are all very cringy attempts at jokes, the final boss is named Clark Fackerberg. On top of that these areas are all very bland and despite not being very long are way too repetitive which really works against the feeling of wanting to go back in for more. Death or Treat is a real disappointment of a game. A game that should have been enjoyable and if all the issues could be pushed aside, could manage to show some flashes of brilliance. Unfortunately in its current state it is a lot like its main character of a Ghost, a visual spectacle to be sure but one almost entirely lacking in substance.