HomeReviews2.5/5 ReviewDeath or Treat Review

Death or Treat Review


It’s not much of a choice is it? Death or Treat? We’ll go for ‘Treat’.

Death or Treat, in this instance, is an action-platformer roguelike, vaguely in the way of Dead Cells. You fight your way through procedurally generated levels and hordes of enemies, bump up against the odd boss, and hope that you can progress a little further than you did before. Upon your death, with your spirit whisked back to a home hub, you hope to bring enough resources and bounties that will make the next run even more successful.

death or treat review 1
Death or Treat review screenshot

We should start with a rather large positive: Death or Treat is gorgeous. It attempts the Rayman Legends-like trick of creating beautifully animated cartoon characters, full of personality, and then airlifting them into detailed environments. The contrast should jar but it doesn’t, and Death or Treat doesn’t half look dazzling. For a mini-budget indie game from Saona Studios, a fledgling Spanish studio, it’s a real achievement.

We’d love to say that we fell in love with the rest of Death or Treat as much as we did with the art style, but we can’t. There’s spirit (hur-hur) and ambition here, but we just found ourselves groaning like a zombie at the rest. Maybe we didn’t choose ‘Treat’ after all. 

Take the story. You play Scary, a ghost who owns GhostMart, a sticks-and-mortar Halloween shop that also doubles up as the game’s hub. Your enemies are Darkchat, Deviltube and RipTok, owned by Clark Fackerberg, founder of FaceBoo!, who is selling Storyum: a kind of story-based drug that is turning everyone into ghostly zombies. 

Aside from the confusing jumble of names and ideas, it just makes us groan. It’s lazy name-checking coupled with yawnsome puns. Yet, it’s about the level of humour that Death or Treat has to offer: every single interaction with another character has lengthy, unskippable dialogue that’s filled with much-the-same, and we became increasingly detached from events. 

Procedurally generated roguelikes are tough to get right, too. The pitfalls with procedural generation are in the level design: offer too few variations and things get boring quickly; offer too many, and it can feel like you’re wandering through randomly assorted tiles that don’t coalesce into a fun level. You’re playing a spreadsheet rather than an authored game. Death or Treat somehow falls into both pits. Levels are made out of sections that feel stale after four or five playthroughs: you get used to the same pipes, level-ends and layouts. But they also don’t feel like levels that a human-being would make: they’re just too plain and linear to generate a feeling beyond tedium. 

death or treat review 2
The glorious art of Death or Treat

Enemies are poured into the levels without much care. Dozens of them will sit in the same pits and on the same platforms, and you will juggle and kill them all in much the same way. If there was a sense of pacing or escalation, Death or Treat might have quickened the pulse. But the enemies seem to be liberally sprinkled around the level like salt in a stew.

If you’re going for the same genre as Dead Cells, then combat needs to be on point. But this is Death or Treat’s biggest failure, and we were surprised by just how much it misses its target. In theory, it should have been great: X and Y light and heavy attacks can be combined into a litany of combos, and there’s a neat juggle system where enemies can hover in the air for you to thwack them with a well-timed heavy attack. The roster is filled out with jump-attacks, double-jumps and jump-slams, giving you more than most action-platformers offer. 

But it’s under the hood where Death or Treat suffers. We were informed that a day-one patch would solve matters, but it’s barely scratched the surface. There are so many issues with the basic feel of combat that it can feel like you are fighting with a marionette, and several strings are missing. 

We’ll toss out some examples. The dodge doesn’t actually make you invincible: you merely move to the side. So, dodge through an attack, and you will still get hit. Attack an enemy back, and the game will only occasionally recognise your input. Something is fundamentally wrong with Death or Treat’s back-end, as it constantly misses an attack, dodge or jump, leaving you in situations where you’ve been dealt a hammer-blow to your persistent health, yet it wasn’t your fault. And you can’t cancel out of inputs. If you’re performing a length heavy attack but want to roll out of the way because an executioner has just wound-up his own attack, well, you’re doomed. You can’t cancel it.

There are many, many more of these issues and they compound to create a fracture that the game can’t heal from. Death or Treat, fundamentally, is not a fun game to play, mainly because it stops and starts and doesn’t respond as it should. We felt like rage-quitting on more than one occasion, simply because we weren’t to blame for our deaths. And when you have persistent health pools and wonky balancing where larger creatures can one-hit you if you’re not careful, it becomes incredibly problematic.

death or treat review 3
Death or Treat xbox screenshot

To be a little kinder to Death or Treat, there is a nice progression structure at play. Kill enough enemies and you’ll gain batwings, pumpkin seeds and other more valuable resources that can be used to increase health, rate of regen, unlock portals to skip worlds, and generally outfit your town with new amenities. If you can overcome the tedium of replaying the levels and the same gangs of enemies, then you are justly rewarded. It’s a meta-structure for a much better game. 

But as much as Death or Treat wants to fall on the treat side of the equation, we felt tricked. We were completely sold on its charismatic art style, and were prepped for roguelike joys. But the levels are too much of a slog, the enemies artlessly created and – fatally – the combat is limp. There are clearly very talented people at Saona Studios, but Death or Treat needed to bake for a few more months if it was going to feel finished.


  • Gorgeous art
  • Fantastic soundtrack
  • Some well-constructed roguelike meta-systems
  • Levels are plain and repeated
  • Enemies just move about in clusters
  • Controls feel unresponsive
  • Massive thanks for the free copy of the game go to - Perpetual Europe
  • Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), PS5, PC
  • Release date and price - 11 May 2023 | £19.99
0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Follow Us On Socials


Our current writing team


Join the chat

You might also likeRELATED
Recommended to you

<b>Pros:</b> <ul> <li>Gorgeous art</li> <li>Fantastic soundtrack</li> <li>Some well-constructed roguelike meta-systems</li> </ul> <b>Cons:</b> <ul> <li>Levels are plain and repeated</li> <li>Enemies just move about in clusters</li> <li>Controls feel unresponsive</li> </ul> <b>Info:</b> <ul> <li>Massive thanks for the free copy of the game go to - Perpetual Europe</li> <li>Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), PS5, PC <li>Release date and price - 11 May 2023 | £19.99</li> </ul>Death or Treat Review
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x