Death Coming – Review
Death Coming is a non linear puzzle game by NEXT Studios and Zodiac Interactive, a lighthearted take on the afterlife and death told in a humorous manner with adorable pixel characters.
The story of Death Coming is fairly straightforward, you were a mortal man whose life was cut short, the Grim Reaper offers you a chance at redemption if you assist him in harvesting human souls, all you need to do is give the living mortals a little push so Death can bring his harvest count up, and by a little push…I mean straight up murdering as many people as possible.
Gameplay in Death Coming is reminiscent of a few other games, most notably Neil Gaiman’s Wayward Manor, although instead of ghosts entering mundane objects to scare people out of the manor, you manipulate the objects to crush, burn, maim or anything else that will kill as many people as possible, all under the guidance of Death himself.
The levels are shown in a sprawling isometric map, populated with a certain number of victims…I mean people, and your goal in each level is to take out as many as possible, you have a counter at the top of the screen that shows you how many you need to kill to complete the level (which will award you a bronze trophy and completion states of “Passed”) however once you reach this number, Death gives you the option to do some overtime and try to collect some more souls for him, if you manage to take out everyone in the level you receive the maximum trophy (and the pride that goes with murdering unsuspecting men, women and children).
Each level also contains “Marked” targets, these are people whose souls are intertwined with yours (or so Death says), these people also take a little more ingenuity to “deal with”, generally requiring you to interact with other objects or characters to move them into more death friendly locations, the levels also have an interesting and well paced ramp up in difficulty, each level introduces something new to keep the game fresh and more challenging, for example, the first level introduces you to “Death traps” these are the objects you can interact with to assist your soul harvesting and can range from dropping a flower pot on someones head to messing with traffic lights to create some roadkill, the second level introduces objects that require extra steps to use, either by using something else first to modify the situation for the main object, or by disposing of the guard that is watching it, this level also introduces The Angels of Light, which act as the police in this world, if they see you interact with an object (clicking on it to highlight it for use) you receive a warning, after 3 it’s game over, level 3 introduces more complex traps and “suspicious” people that may indirectly assist you, level 4 introduces weather conditions, adding new traps after a blizzard, while also locking out some others if you don’t use them before it starts.
In addition to everything mentioned above, each level also contains a story, which acts a hint for something you can use to score a lot of kills in the levels, i.e. the first level has aliens on a rooftop, if you work out how to summon them they will abduct everyone down a nearby street for you, these little stories as well as the things the marked targets say after they die are quite funny too, keeping the lighthearted tone already established, there are also bonus levels in which your character directly kills as many enemies as possible, which is a fun little minigame to break up the puzzle nature of the main game.
Soundwise the game is great as well, each level has nice music, fun sound effects and even little voice clips for certain actions such as “Double kill” or “Monster kill” the music in each level is quite relaxing and lovely, sounding kind of like some other puzzle type games such as Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney or the Professor Layton series, some parts also remind me of the incidental music in One Piece and a homage to a famous classical piece.
Graphically the game is adorable, all the little pixel people are super cute, the pixels are small so you can see all the detail in the world, Death’s design is classic Grim Reaper but the way he moves and acts make him very endearing, there are also a few nice references to other media and even real life people (the Glorious Leader who is working toward a Nuclear weapon, anyone?) and even though the characters are cute and their deaths are bloody (mostly), it’s all so cute and fun that I don’t feel even a little bit bad for them.
In conclusion, Death Coming is a fantastic game, and would feel quite at home with NIS America’s catalogue of dark themed but cartoony and fun games, luckily for Zodiac Interactive they had the foresight to snatch up this gem for publishing, and full credit to NEXT Studios for making it happen in the first place, the game is fairly short, with only 6 main levels, but each level is quite tough to get max kills and they are all fun to replay, they even have leaderboards in case you want to prove to the world that you’re the best murderer around, the price tag isn’t bad either considering the quality and how much you get, wonderful game.
In coffee terms, Death Coming is like a well made coffee from a new barista, I might not be sure at first but it sounds good and it’s the type I like, so I order a cup expecting it to be pleasant and get me through the day, but once I start drinking it, all the subtle flavours are revealed and I’m surprised how much better it tastes than more expensive and well known brews.
P.S. Just one more thing that I thought was lovely, but didn’t come up earlier in the review, when you quit the game you see the message “Life is short, enjoy it while it lasts, Stay safe!” for a game about murdering people it’s nice to leave on such a positive message.