Death Squared is the definition of pick and play. Its objective is apparent from the get go, and simplistic level design and mechanics make it easy for anyone to get into. The primary objective of Death Squared is to provide you with a puzzle. The secondary is to provide you with an co-op experience. And the list ends there.
Death Squared is a cooperative puzzle game for up to 4 players developed and distributed by SMG Studios. The game was released for the PS4, Xbox One, PC on March 13 2017 and for the Nintendo Switch on July 13 2017.
The goal of the game is simple enough. You can control up to 4 AI bots on different levels, and each level is deemed complete when each of the bots has been placed on its color coded pedestal. Its funny but it’s actually simpler to understand when you see it than to read about it. There are 80 levels for 2 bots at a time, and 40 more for 4 bots at a time. Each bot can be individually controlled by a player, and that’s what makes Death Squared an excellent couch co-op option. In fact its the recommended way to play.
While playing solo you can control each bot (2 by the analog sticks, and the other 2 by keeping the bumper button pressed), it does become difficult to complete difficult maneuvers especially when there are 4 bots on the screen. Some puzzles do take longer than others, but there is no spike in difficulty at any point in the game. You might be stuck at a level for hours, which might be followed by first attempts in the next five, so it never feels as if yu have reached a IQ wall in the game.
Gameplay And Mechanics
Mechanically, there is not a lot happening. You can move the bots up down, right and left and that’s it. The bots can activate switches, lasers, spikes, and elevators by climbing onto color coded grids. Its simple and intuitive as its apparent from you first trial and error that a red laser would kill a blue bot and vice versa. There are also some special colored boxes which are transparent to the bots of the same color but solid to all the others.
Story And Narrative
Narrative wise, there is not a lot to write home about. There is a little bit of running commentary provided by Dave, the person in charge of these AI simulation, which turns to lose banter as the game goes along. While the writing wasn’t terrible, it was nothing to write home about either, and it had no effect on the gameplay either, so much so that you could play the entire game on mute, and never miss anything important. It never tries to be snarky like Portal or snobby like the Talos Principle. It just exists, because they had some budget left over after the game was finished.
Graphics Sound and Performance
Because the game is simplistic, it does perform decently. Didn’t hang, loading times were pretty quick and the game transitioned from Handheld mode to TV mode and vice versa smoothly. It also handled switching from solo play to co-op pretty decently as well, which is a real plus. The soundtrack, is just there, a collection of ambient sound to fill in the void left by the occasional chatter from Dave, best left muted in my opinion. You could argue that the levels themselves looked a little bland, but once again adding too much details would have taken away from the simplicity of design and that is something the devs had strong views against.
The best compliment I can give Death Squared is that the game was primarily completed by my wife (a non gamer). The fact that someone who doesn’t play video games was ready to invest hours into a game speaks volume about the work the team behind it has done. Though I do believe there is no reward for the effort apart from the satisfaction of completing it. While I do understand that this won’t be a problem on the PS4, Xbox One and PC (all platforms offer trophies and/or achievements), Nintendo Switch does not offer enough when you reach a certain milestone in the game. Maybe some in-game rewards could have solved that, but at this point we are pulling at straws.
Death Squared builds on the fun and the feeling of achievement that you get when you solve a Sudoku or a Crossword. But unlike those puzzles, it makes them more fun when it’s played together with friends. Death Squared takes away everything and puts you and the puzzle front and center, everything else is just noise.