Throughout the years, games have tested boundaries and pushed themselves further to bring new ideas or to illicit new reactions from players. Now with Death Squared you are given the opportunity to test how much patience you have for your family and friends through a co-operative puzzle game that will put the divorce in couch co-op.
For the purposes of this preview I was given access to 35 levels of Death Squared, which I got stuck into with my partner. The gameplay involves moving two cubes around a floating puzzle, using nothing but the directional buttons. There are puzzle objects which you interact with but are almost always colour coded so one of you has to complete the action. Objects like switches can do anything from raising or moving parts of the puzzle, turning on lasers or bringing spikes up.
You need to traverse the challenges laid out to get both players to a colour coded circle each. This sounds easy enough when you start the games but they very quickly turn to trickery. Examples like the button your partner must go over to get to another side brings spikes up and you have chosen to be right where they come up, or the sneakier ones are the finishing pad, which sets off spikes to kill you at the end of a Level.
This is where the frustration comes in. It is super easy to die by your partner getting to far ahead of themselves and not knocking out a plan, or if you get too relaxed it is easy to forget what button three did and repeat a mistake or slip off the side of the map by force or accident. With a combination of its simple mechanics and an individual death counter, the game can get under your skin quickly. My partner and I had to stop, reassess the nature of how we were playing the game before we got too frustrated with each other.
Other times there are lasers of one colour, so you or your partner will need to block it as you pass, sometimes requiring you both to go at the right pace to ensure person B does not get hit. Ideas like this is the core of what makes the game brilliant, it is technically simple, with puzzles just complex enough to make for challenges and semi-regular deaths, being just enough to make failure annoying. I could definitely foresee people who are frustrated easier than myself having some disastrous consequences to some repeated deaths, so make sure you actually like the person you are playing with or it could get nasty.
The art and sound are simple but good, you can tell that the game designers have dedicated their time to the puzzles and gameplay and that is fine because as a puzzle game it is great. Mechanically I did not notice any bugs, which is important because I never felt the game killed me with a cheap death, they were always the fault of myself or my partner, but mostly mine.
After 35 Levels I am very interested to see where Death Squared goes.
There is also a four-person party mode but I was unable to test that due to not having four people in the same place at the same time but briefly playing it with two controllers it seems like it would be fun. It is great to see a game pop up that excels at local co-op and even better when for it to be the core of the game. If you and your partner can let silly frustrations go and work as a team then there is a wonderful puzzle game here to enjoy.
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