Death and Taxes
Developer: Placeholder Gameworks
Publisher: Pineapple Works
Genre: Puzzle, Simulation
Platform: Nintendo Switch, PC
Age Rating: 12
Release Date: 10/09/2020
A code was provided for review purposes.
Welcome to the Black Parade
Death and Taxes is a puzzle game where you play as a newly spawned Grim Reaper. Set in an office building we are given the task of deciding who lives and more importantly who dies, through the admin of quite a lot of paper work. With a new quota of who lives and dies being set each day we can choose to either ignore these or follow them dutifully. However there are consequences…
Bound by Fate
In Death and Taxes, we take on a newly created Grim Reaper who’s been created by Fate. Fate also happens to be our Boss and he is the person we report to at the end of each day. Fate is a somewhat enigmatic chap who has faith in the system but also harbours a resentment for it. Fate’s main job is to oversee our work each day by giving us assignments and to check that we have done these tasks adequately at the day’s end. He’s also quite a philosophical fellow who’s not afraid to have an in-depth chat or two about the meaning of life and death. With his trusty Cat by his side to take over the overseer role when he’s out of the office, Fate sees everything. So with that we best be a good Grim Reaper and follow the rules…or not!
Our daily conversations with Fate (or his Cat) are where the majority of Death and Taxes‘ story comes from. The rest of the story comes from our quota – the human population. Whoever we choose to kill or let live also has an effect on the story as these affect the status quo within the human population. We can check out how our work is affecting the living by keeping an eye on our mobile phone which displays a news feed on how life on Earth is. This is one aspect into determining what ending we get when the job is done.
Whilst our conversations with Fate are interesting these don’t affect what one of the many endings to the game we will end up seeing. It’s all about who we kill or don’t kill, and how rebellious our Grim Reaper is in doing the job. Endings are made up of a series of comic strip panels which show how life has turned out for us personally and for humanity. There are a wealth of endings to unlock and getting to see them all isn’t just a case of killing everyone or saving everyone, because all that does is get us fired. There are a few things we can do to determine our personal ending, such as playing by the rules and following Fate’s instructions. However humanity’s fate is much trickier to decide and is based on four invisible factors.
These factors are manipulated by who lives and dies each day. There are certain items that we can buy from the item shop such as a snow globe and a lamp that allow us to see through them how the state of the Earth is. These however are more suited for subsequent playthroughs, more so with the lamp. The lamp grants you access to hidden values on each person’s file and shows you how their death or life will affect the world around them. So it’s a pretty helpful tool, however, the lamp only works if you’ve killed or spared the person before, so not really worth buying on your first playthrough.
The Office: A Grim Reaper Workplace
The gameplay is pretty simple. Each day we sit down at our desk and are given various profiles of people who Fate wants us to…well, decide their fate. Each day comes with certain parameters such as having to kill a certain amount of people or having to spare people between a certain age. The question throughout the game is who do you kill and who do you spare? You can either aim for certain endings or just follow your own morals. Do you kill the bad and save the good? Or do you play God and try to make the world a better place? The choice is ultimately yours but it may not end up being the right choice. This is what makes Death and Taxes a great game. There are so many directions the game can go and it’s really straight down to your actions.
Our job as Death lasts for 28 days and these days can be completed in as little as one hour. Once you’ve gone through the game a few times it does start to get repetitive. We see the same profiles each time and have the same conversations with Fate each time as well, bar a few different dialogue choices. Due to this, subsequent playthroughs become more of a numbers game as we try to reach certain endings. Whilst there is a variety to the gameplay it’s very small. Buying things from the item shop does break up this monotony and can add new gameplay options, but it comes to a point where we have bought everything.
Death and Taxes is a simple game and its art and colours are simplistic as well. It favours a few choice colours of browns and oranges but it isn’t afraid to throw in some vibrancy when needed. We also get the ability to customise our Grim Reaper; nothing is really off limits with this and we can make our Reaper as dull or as flamboyant as we like. Suprisingly we can also buy and cover our desk in useless clutter – much like a real desk.
The office we work in can be traversed by elevator each day. It’s a nice way to be able to interact with the environment as this could have easily been a menu of selectable destinations. Instead we simply ride the elevator up and down each day, much like a real office. We only have a few destinations such as Fate’s office, our office, the basement shop and our quarters.
The Switch handles Death and Taxes suprisingly well. Playing in handheld mode does allow you to use the touch screen but I felt this was a little clunky at times. There isn’t a real difference in graphics fidelity either and the game looks just as good in handheld than it does in docked mode. During my playthroughs I didn’t encounter any FPS slowdowns or unexpected errors and this was the same with playing in both modes (docked/handheld).
Death and Taxes is a fun game. The first few runs offer some great choice based gameplay and it is hard being a Grim Reaper. Getting to experience all the endings however becomes a chore as there isn’t enough variation in conversation choice or Human profiles. The story is pretty short and all 28 days can be finished in just under an hour. With a few comedic lines and human profiles it’s a great little game of life and death. Death and Taxes makes for a great pick-up and play title, even though longer sessions may grate on you.
Oh, did I mention you can also befriend a Cat!
Rapid Reviews Rating
You can purchase Death and Taxes by clicking the following link: Nintendo eShop.