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You are the Reaper, a trainee at Apocalypse Inc., working under Death himself. Your job is to figure out who goes to Heaven, or Hell, or Purgatory. What seems to be a menial task eventually snowballs into a frenzy, as your scythe-wielding boss gives you more and more rules every day in your seven-week trial that complicates matters. While this relatively short, comical arcade game by AZAMATIKA is mostly enjoyable in its chaos, it comes quite darkly close to emulating the real life experience of entry-level jobs, bringing up memories I would have preferred to leave buried.

Gameplay

Having not played the original PC version of Peace, Death!, I can only presume that the menu controls in that version must have been originally designed for use with a mouse, as the Switch version takes some getting used to. Before each level, for instance, you have the opportunity to purchase effects that can make the level easier, but the text is not separated clearly, making it initially unclear which button purchases which effect. The level selection is similarly obscure, with redundant arrow sprites that serve no purpose.

Your first day on the job is peaceful. You are given thirty clients, and if they are human, they go to Heaven on the right, and if they are demons, you must send them left, to Hell. From there, things gradually become more complicated. Every level thereafter introduces a new rule that you must take into account when making your judgement:

Is the client holding a weapon? Hell. Are they holding a Bible? Heaven. What if you can make them give up their weapon? Purgatory (which basically acts as a catch-all for anyone who is not entirely good or bad).

The way these simple rules build up provides a satisfyingly stressful challenge in the later levels. All the while, a clock on the wall above you counts down an amount of time to complete the level that is never specified (thus making the usefulness of effects that increase the level’s timer by thirty seconds difficult to gauge), but even though the time limit seems to be very forgiving, the mere presence of a clock proved enough to make stress-related errors significantly more likely.

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I felt that many of the rules were very similar, and had predictable results. For example, clients may come to you holding various items, like food, alcohol, a weapon, or wearing a crown, all of which qualify for Hell – but if you can make them drop their item, they must go to Purgatory. All of these rules are introduced separately, despite there being no substantial difference between them, except to achieve the effect of building up complexity. Only a few times were rules used to humorous effect: for some reason, if any client turns up who looks like a fan of heavy metal, they go to Hell without exception. I wished there had been more of these funny, arbitrary rules.

Graphics/Art Direction

The game is presented with colourful pixel art, and there are dozens of beautifully drawn sprites for your various clients. Many of these resemble famous people in history, as well as contemporary celebrities, most of whom probably went unrecognized by yours truly – although, there was one particular, orange-tinted character, who I found almost impossible not to send to Hell straight away, even at the expense of failing the level. Such is this game’s wry sense of humour.

Music/Sound Design

The sound effects that accompany the flavour-text spoken by each client as they appear (which is often quite funny, making it an extra challenge to try and read them without sacrificing too much game time) vary wildly in tone, to the point where some characters, like demons, emit a sound so like a generic buzzer noise that it took me a long time to figure out that those noises did not indicate I had send someone to the wrong place.

The soundtrack is unremarkable.

Final Score: 69%

Playing Peace, Death! made me remember a time when I was employed in customer service, and for that, although it’s not the game’s fault exactly, I can’t say my experience was wholly ecstatic. But if you are not prone to workplace-related flashbacks, there’s a lot to enjoy, even if the gameplay felt a little like colouring inside the lines at times.

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Posted by Matthew Sandstrom