In a memorable episode of the show South Park, the overlying theme was “the Simpsons already did it.” The core concept is that no matter what you do, it’s been done before, and probably was already done before that. This isn’t meant to discourage creativity, but more of an understanding that the majority of new things are at least partially derived from another source. This brings us to Bread Machine Games’ rogue-bullet hell game Deathstate. The game doesn’t exactly ooze originality.
In fact, it feels and looks like a lot of other games, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The strongest comparisons would be The Binding of Isaac and Enter the Gungeon, which is kind of unfair. Those are basically the holy grails of top-down rogue games. And even though Isaac came before Deathstate, Gungeon did not. So Deathstate has that going for it! Releasing in 2015 for the PC and 2017 for PS4, the title is now dropping on Switch.
As alluded to previously, gameplay in Deathstate consists of killing and dodging enemies, within a world that changes each run. The view is top-down and always keeps the player in the center of the screen (for the most part). You level up by picking up items (organs from slain monsters, mainly) that enhance and/or alter your abilities. These power-ups are pretty generous, and tend to make you better each time, only occasionally resulting in a downgrading trade-off. And like all games within the genre, the enemies increase and strengthen after each area.
The game is very colorful and provides a fun visual aesthetic. It’s easier than other roguelikes, therefore more accessible for newcomers and people that struggle with those games. There are tons of unlockables that provide an absurd amount of different ways that a single run can go.
Frankly, the game doesn’t do enough to stand out. It feels like so many other games that do a better job of reeling you in for one more run. The music doesn’t stand out enough either. It’s subdued and tedious, when it should be driving and propelling you forward.
Deathstate feels a little too familiar to stand out from the rest. There are enjoyable moments and it is easier than its gaming brethren, but that doesn’t make it better. Even fans of the genre might not find enough to sink their teeth into to keep coming back to this one. Of course, if you haven’t experienced those other games, then this isn’t a bad place to start.