I do love me some nice 2D animation in action hack ‘n’ slash games. Dead Cells being a prime example. Therefore videos of Death or Treat looked like it would tick all the boxes. Yet here I am writing an opening paragraph that feels like it is about to go all in on the criticism.

There truth is though, I don’t quite know how I feel about Saona Studios’ Souls-like. It is both at once a game that really draws me in, but somehow feels really disconnected. Yet I cannot put my finger on why this is.

You take on the role of ‘Scary’ a ghost who owns a Ghost Mart who is tasked with saving their home ‘HallowTown’. You know the story… hero must save the day by going on adventures. In terms of giving a reason for the adventure, it is what it needs to be, no more, no less. But I’m not one who plays these games for the deep lore. I am in it for the actual gameplay.

Just to note though. Scary has tons of character and expression, despite having very little in terms of features. But I’ll come to that shortly.

The core gameplay sees you go through various areas fighting all manner of enemy types From simple minons to bigger and harder enemies and various boss types. You progress, die, upgrade, repeat. If you’ve played any of the other games in the genre, you know the routine by now. Dead Cells, Ember Knights, Moonscars, Afterimage, etc, etc.

You’ll upgrade yourself and your town, with each new up[grade offering bigger and better benefits. Thus allowing you to explore further, get more rewards and get yet more upgrades. Honestly as a gameplay loop, it is one that is tried and tested and one I am a sucker for. I’ll always come back for more of these as they are easy to jump in and out of, no matter the gap between play sessions.

The animation of Scary especially is fantastic. It has a had-animated feel to the movement and just flows really well. Same with the hand-painted environments, enemies, the lot. It just all fits together really well. There is also a lovely soundtrack that acts as that pinch of salt to bring the sensory flavour the fore.

It is such a shame then, that for some reason I have struggled to spend time with Death or Treat in the same way I have with a Dead Cells. All my time playing it felt like I missing something and I wanted my fix elsewhere. Yet if you ask me to tell you why… I don’t think I can give you reason.

As said, the animation, visuals, audio are all sublime. The gameplay loop is right up my street and the core combat works pretty well. There is no single reason for me to not shout from the rooftops about this game. It just lacks…’Something’

I want to say that it commits the ultimate sin of just being bland, but it’s not that either as I do want to like it, I love many aspects about it and I don’t have a particularly bad word to say about anything. I’d almost rather the game was dreadful so I had a reason for my ambivalence towards it.

The only thing I can think, is that Death or Treat suffers from being part of an over-saturated market. I have played so many games in the genre that I still play at least weekly, that anything new has to feel totally fresh or do something either brand new, or perfect the already established parts. This doesn’t do that and had it come out 3-4 years sooner, I don’t doubt I’d be talking about another game in the genre like I am talking about this.

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