Made official at the end of 2021 during the pre-show of the last Game Awards ceremony, Happy death is available in early access on PC via Steam since early March 2022. On the side of its participation in the fourth edition of the AG French Direct, Magic Design Studios (Unruly Heroes) and Gearbox Publishing gave us the chance to get our hands on the in-development version of their project for the first time. So, does this 2D rogue-lite already have great potential in its early access? Answer in this overview.
Preview Terms: Preview shot using an Xbox One controller on a 1080p display and a PC with 16 GB of RAM and equipped with an Intel Core i5-9400F (2.9 GHz) processor and an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060. The version in development of the title ran for 7 hours in the default graphics configuration, the time it took to best reach the second floor of the game’s third zone while unlocking at our own pace (running about 30 runs) much of the content that was already available in the only difficulty mode offered at the time of writing these rules.
Incognito Boss: Death, CEO of Death, Incorporated
Can sometimes recall the light tone and tinged with black humor of death gatethe action RPG released last year from Acid Nerve and Devolver Digital, Happy death is an original title to say the least because it invites us to embody death. Be careful, not the entity we fear will strike us at every moment of our wretched existence, but rather the one who is only a shadow of itself because it entrusted too many responsibilities and power to its Scourges, the heads of the various divisions of his large company Death, Incorporated.
On the brink of burnout after the massive influx of souls and somewhat annoyed by this situation that has lasted far too long, the protagonist has no choice but to put his cape back on and take back his scythe to his own business. by using strong language to remind everyone who’s boss. And, as you can imagine, the road to restoring the image will be long and full of pitfalls.
Even if we have doubts about its ability not to sink into the repetition and redundancy inherent in the rogue-lite genre, the game from the studio of Montpellier immediately manages to immerse us in its universe that is both obscure if completely unusual. This involves artistic direction and eye-pleasing animations, music that perfectly matches the atmosphere described above (special mention for the theme of the elevator between two levels) but also by a cast of charismatic characters on request.
From Brad, the lazy security chief who never misses a chance to share his victories against his boss on social networks, to union representative Gérard, through the adorable intern and graduate of the Sepulchral School of Eternal Management from Pump Quinn vanities, each of them has a unique personality that you can freely appreciate or not. Moreover, they constantly satisfy us with dialogues sprinkled with second-degree and sometimes even expertly dosed salt after a defeat against a boss or a mini-boss.
Note that the wealth of knowledge does not stop there, as the developers also took pleasure in imagining areas (Hall of Eternity, Industrial Pollution Department…), floors (Thanager Office, Vitam-Mana Service…), enemies (Fantômax, Pétroll, Storm …), weapons and spells just like their creation.
Quite honestly, as soon as the main menu appears, we know that the production we have in front of us has real cachet and this feeling didn’t leave us for a second during our session. A pure delight!
Mow his workers, it’s the foot!
If it’s clearly important to give players the chance to immerse themselves in a gripping universe, it’s hard to appreciate a roguelite if it doesn’t offer gameplay and a challenge worthy of the name. Good news, even if this is just early access, Happy death contains nervous, exciting and fluid game mechanics that requires fast and good thinking and acting, the AI gives us few gifts during the confrontations, be it in the arena or in the traditional framework of the platforming stages.
In addition to launching relatively classic controls for the genre, such as left joystick movements, a single jump by pressing the A button, a rush/dodge via the RT trigger, and wielding the scythe with the X button ( single/charged/alternative attack), scythe that we can also improve and even transform in exchange for Soulary and Prismium by going to the Technical Chamber, our cloak allows us to use a secondary weapon or spell (Y ) and tertiary (B) to our arsenal during a run.
A fairly simple concept and, let’s face it, not exactly revolutionary, which doesn’t stop it from being damn effective, as this system in itself opens the door to quite a wide variety of builds, given the content already available (equipment to unlock by spending ingot) with Régis in the central hub).
Not only does the way a weapon or spell is used changes more or less depending on location, but the choice of the latter also affects the type of Fury that is activated. This promises to entitle us to gameplay that will continue to gain in depth as the updates kick in until the game’s official release.
Beyond this aspect and while the level design is too linear to give any real exploration dimension to the experience, the title also features several useful objects that can be retrieved by browsing through the floors of Death, Incorporated and a curse tree system. Each curse delivered by Labor Inspector Anton Dumollard can give us different bonuses/punishments during a game.
You will understand, apart from a crash and some bugs that you encountered during our session, Happy death has, about two months after launching its early access, gameplay, challenge and content to what is expected of a roguelite oriented production and we are impatient to see what comes next.