Over the years many games have been made with a certain style intended, with an extra mode shoehorned in so it can appeal to the masses. Recently more developers have had the guts to create a game the way they want and leave it at that. Death Squared falls into the latter by leaving out a single player mode for its vision of a two or four player puzzle game that can be frustratingly hard, requiring a solid partner where communication and calm is key.
Death Squared tells the story of David who is a tester at his job at Omnicorp, testing out AI’s ability to function with his assistant, an AI, IRIS. That’s it, the entirety of the story. All the dialogue from this point is banter between David and IRIS, which as a puzzle game works perfectly. The game doesn’t try to do anything more than entertain and it’s very entertaining, from David questioning what it’s like to be an AI, observing AI, to David working on holiday plans. It’s cheesy, funny and a great accompaniment to the game.
The game itself drops two (or four) cubes into a puzzle where you need to get each cube to its coloured end. The puzzles are cleverly designed where simple looking puzzles can become difficult and difficult puzzles can be easy depending on how your team thinks. I say team because you can play it single player if you are ambidextrous and a genius, but controlling two controllers in the way required for Death Squared was far too challenging for myself.
Puzzles are regularly littered with buttons and transparent blocks that all act differently. Each are coloured so only the blue cube can trigger the blue button and go through certain transparent cubes which act as a wall for the red cube. Buttons can do anything from raising blocks to bringing spikes up in the floor which usually results in the death of your partner, as they are regularly hidden where your partner will likely be waiting in the puzzle. This is what the game does most impressively, a lot of the time it knows where you will probably be waiting and that’s where the spikes, or moving block, gets you the moment your partner hits the button.
The puzzles aren’t a matter of waiting and seeing, as challenges like lasers require you,along with your partner, to move together. This is accomplished with the lasers being coloured and regularly moving to provide challenges.This means one player needs to move blocks or use themselves as a barrier to protect their partner as you move together. One slip up and death.
Triggers aren’t always as obvious as the above either. Some puzzles have actions tied to the player’s movement, such as a chain of transparent blocks that moves on the X axis when you move on the right axis, meaning your partner and yourself need to move forward or backwards through the puzzle to not push each other off. This is where the game becomes frustratingly brilliant. Your partner, or group, need to be in the right mindset for this game and that mindset is tolerance. You will kill each other regularly, usually by accident and sometimes repeatedly in the same point of a puzzle. This becomes frustrating as hell at times, but it’s never the game cheating you, which almost makes it worse if you’re not the forgiving type.
The only problem I had with the game was occasional camera angles, mostly on puzzles which involve going behind blocks. The bulk of the game doesn’t have this issue but some Levels require you to go behind a block, drop down and move behind other blocks regularly obscuring your vision. This is the only time I feel like the game gave me a cheap death, dying out of vision or because of movement out of vision.
Death Squared is an outstanding couch co-op game, that provides challenges usually out of reach, so you’ll have to think to beat them, yet it’s never so obscure that you are miles away from he resolution. With the right partner or group this game will be a blast, if you can all forgive each other for regular dumb deaths at their hands.
Released: February 2017
Developer: SMG Studios
Publisher: SMG Studios