Death or Treat Review – An Apple in the Candy Bag


I have played approximately 5000 roguelike/roguelite games in the last few months. There’s a constant flow of new entries into the genre since games like Hades came along and reignited the audience for them. Death or Treat is another journey on repeat into danger.

Death or Treat Brings You Into The HalloVerse

Developers Saona Studios have placed HallowTown, and the HallowVerse, in danger, and it’s up to candy-selling ghost Scary to save the town. After Faceboo! moved in and started selling a substance called Storyum, residents became addicted to it, and the town fell into disrepair. Yes, this game is tackling the global addiction to social media through the metaphor of drug addiction and The Nightmare Before Christmas aesthetics.

Death or Treat HallowTown
Photo Credit: Saona Studios

As Scary, you must venture out to reach the headquarters of FaceBoo! through the Darkchat Storyum factory. During each venture out, Scary also has to collect materials from fallen enemies and what are just Jack Skellington heads that act as the world’s currency. These materials go towards restoring the buildings and shops of HallowTown, which will only aid Scary in his quest to end the distribution of Storyum.

Each time you leave the hub area of HallowTown, you choose which melee weapon and which special ability to arm yourself on your adventure. Everything is upgraded at the town hub, meaning you need many materials. A lot. This means you need to do a whole lot of monster mashing.

It’s Not All Smooth Sailing

This is where I initially ran into some issues with Death or Treat. I played for two hours doing multiple charges into the factory to fight Frankenstein’s monsters, bats, brains in jars, and Jack O’Lantern ghosts to try and gather enough materials. In these two hours, I collected no bat wings, an integral material needed to restore several buildings in the town. I barely gathered anything other than the Jack Skellington head currency. This meant I couldn’t get any upgraded weapons or restore anything. I gave up.

Death or Treat special move
Photo Credit: Saona Studios

Then, a release day patch addressed some issues and re-balanced the gameplay, so I hopped back in to try again. Instantly, the difference was noticeable. Material drops were more frequent and more variable. Finally, I could restore a building. Then I could get a weapon that wasn’t a broom handle. After that, a world of different things opened up.

Unfortunately, even with these changes, Death or Treat is kind of flat. It isn’t bad. It isn’t incredible. It occupies the space between the two extremes. Again, this isn’t terrible; it isn’t likely to make any waves in an already crowded genre. The gameplay is solid, and the combat is simple, hack and slash the bad guys and unleash your chosen super ability when things get dicey. The accuracy is a little wonky, but it’s otherwise a solid combat system.

As for movement, it is a little bit too floaty. Yes, you are playing as a spooky ghost, but it is a little too unpredictable in the platforming department. For example, will the double jump I’m doing reach this platform, or will it be the fifth double jump that’s the one? There’s no real way of knowing.

Death or Treat combat and puns
Photo Credit: Saona Studios

When it comes to the art style of the game, it is heavily inspired by The Nightmare Before Christmas, which, even if you weren’t aware of that before going into it, would be instantly apparent. It’s an easily recognizable style and a popular one. Perhaps even approaching overdone. Nonetheless, it is adorable and well-drawn, with lovely hand-painted backgrounds and fun enemy designs.

Wrapping Up

Overall, Death or Treat is solid but unforgettable. The day-one patch improved several performance issues, which helped the gameplay experience. Is the premise a little on the nose? Yes, to the extent that it seems a little bit forced. There’s no need for the heavy-handed social media metaphor; it adds nothing to the narrative experience. We all know I love puns, but FaceBoo! might be a stretch too far even for me.

Death or Treat is out on May 11th for Steam, PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series X.




Death or Treat Review – An Apple in the Candy Bag
There's a good game to be found somewhere within Death or Treat. Unfortunately, you have to dig past frustrating controls and a bland story to get there.
Simple and straightforward gameplay
Floaty controls
Unengaging narrative
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Written by Emma Oakman

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