Fans of Dead Cells or Rogue Legacy will find familiar fare in Death or Treat, but its delayed Switch port is not up to snuff.
- Title: Death or Treat
- Release Date: July 12, 2023
- Price: $24.99
- Suggested Audience Age: Rated Everyone 10+ by the ESRB
- Availability: Switch, PlayStation, Xbox, Steam
- Recommended for fans of: Dead Cells, Nightmare Before Christmas, Memes and bad puns
Geek to Geek Media was provided with a review copy of this title.
After spending one-hundred-plus hours in the most spectacular open world I’ve ever seen, I have been itching for smaller games lately. Roguelikes are usually a safe bet when I want a bite-sized experience, but so far nothing has caught my eye. When I saw the release date approaching for the Switch port of Death or Treat I was sure it’d a be hit, but some massive performance issues are holding it back.
Death or Treat is, weirdly, the second cartoony, death-themed, action platformer roguelike to land on the Switch this year, after Have a Nice Death. In this one, you play as (as far as I understand so far) a ghost who is attempting to free the denizens of some sort of Halloween Town from a Mark Zuckerberg stand-in so that you can sell them candy.
Look, I know roguelikes don’t usually have banger stories, but even for that genre, this one is pretty weak.
The aesthetics here are all spooky-cute, with ghost dogs, pumpkin-headed salespeople, and candies for currency. The entire game is portrayed in a real clean hand-drawn art style, that’s not quite Cuphead levels of classic animation, but is leaning towards that look.
I have absolutely no idea how the Facebook joke-filled story is supposed to pair with the visual vibes, but for me, it doesn’t work.
The gameplay in Death or Treat is familiar but satisfying. Your character starts off with a sword they can swing in front of them or swipe up or down with a basic attack, a strong attack that’s slower but hits harder, and a special move that uses up stamina that recharges as you fight enemies. You can jump, double jump, and dash. As you play through rooms full of enemies you rack up currency that you can use to buy upgrades from shops you’ll find every few encounters, or save it to take back to town after you die.
The structure here is fine, if not exceedingly familiar. I do feel like the individual “rooms” that are randomly arranged together are a little bit too big, which takes away from the feeling of randomness that roguelikes usually present. Within a few runs, I was hitting areas that I immediately recognized, which meant I knew both where clusters of enemies would be and where to find treasure chests tucked away in out-of-the-way corners.
Still, the bespoke spaces are generally interestingly designed and you never know exactly which ones you’ll see on a run… I just wish there was a little more unpredictability.
Frustrating Framerate and Font
Sadly, Death or Treat struggles to run on the Switch. All of the interesting stage design and fantastic animations fall flat because the game just can't hold a stable framerate. When nothing at all is happening the game runs a bit chunky, and when you dive into a group of enemies and wail away it moves at a pace that is perfectly timed to give me a headache. This port is coming two months after the game landed on other consoles, but it seems like that has not been enough time.
I'm not sure if it's the underlying engine that's the problem or if it's the layers of background and foreground visual effects, but it's frustrating to see a Switch port look like this. I can't help but wonder if turning off some of those “extra” layers of fog might help things run better, and I wish there was a way to turn them off like in Lone Ruin to see.
Add on top of all that the extremely silly, extremely tiny font that makes following the story on a Switch Lite near impossible, and the whole package falls a bit flat.
Death or Treat is a pretty fun action platformer roguelike for folks who have already burned through Rogue Legacy, Space Gladiators, and Dead Cells, but until an update hits I'd stay away from the Switch version.