Developed by SMG Studio, Death Squared is a fun multiplayer puzzle game that puts up to 4 players in control of cute robotic cubes to solve individual test rooms. Published in 2017, this game came to my attention when I was looking for a cooperative game to enjoy with my wife. After many hours of joyful and successful puzzle completions – and possibly some accidental and vengeful friendly fire – I am happy to be able to review my ongoing experience. While I am playing it on the Switch, Death Squared is also available on Steam, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, iOS and Android.
Death Squared – Try Not to Die!
Death Squared presents players with individual puzzle levels, reminiscent of Portal testing rooms, where players have to cooperate and coordinate their cube-shaped robots (often with chicken hats!) through a moving maze of lasers, platforms, teleporters and tripwires to each reach their destination. Much like Portal, you are accompanied through the testing level by a lively pair of narrators, your testing agent responsible for motivating you and a cynical test-management computer. My wife and I have enjoyed playing this game that rewards our teamwork, presenting us with funny quips between the narrators that made us laugh between levels.
While the creative narration provides additional flair to Death Squared, the core gameplay loop revolves around individual puzzle levels that could be played in any order. Despite the lack of a storyline, my wife and I keep coming back to the game as it provides an enjoyable way for us to play together on the Switch. There are over 100 levels between the story and party mode that each demand a healthy amount of problem-solving and cooperation to overcome. Much like other cooperative puzzle games, such as Battleblock Theatre, Death Squared is about the entertaining and perilous journey players share, instead of the destination.
The controls are simple, whereby moving up, down, left and right, players control and modify their environment, moving lasers, creating bridges and clearing space for their teammates to each reach their goal. Death Squared does not demand complex movements, but instead calls players to coordinate their sequence of actions so they can occur in the right order to reach a joint success. With a save point at the end of each level, my wife and I have been able to jump into sessions quickly and easily take a break whenever the puzzle gets the better of us! Death Squared is a low-complexity game with little to no glitches and gameplay issues, and at a low price point, it is an ideal game for those who would like to spend time gaming with their siblings, friends or partners!
Graphics & Audio
The entire game plays out in these individual and separate testing chambers with little to no flair to them, focussing the players’ energy and concentration to the puzzle solving. All the graphical elements highlight a functionality of the puzzles, such as clearly indicated laser beams and semi-transparent blocks that only some players can use. This helps players understand what is important on the screen and prevents players from getting overwhelmed by unnecessary information. Playing on a TV screen from a docked Switch, I was able to easily see all the relevant puzzle elements, only missing components when they were intentionally hidden, only to be revealed after some room exploration.
The main audio element is the non-essential, but very entertaining, conversations between the human and AI narrators who both tease and motivate players. All the core puzzle elements are also accompanied by suitably matching sound effects, creating environmental immersion. While the narrators will occasionally react to your chosen methods of solving the puzzle, most of the conversation is generic, missing an opportunity to create additional humour where the narrators could react to player decision-making.
With over 100 well-designed levels to choose from, there is plenty of gameplay available. Levels require a good amount of concentration, coordination and problem-solving. As a result my wife and I were only able to play half a dozen levels before we needed a break. Consequently, Death Squared is less suited to be your main game that you can dedicate an entire afternoon to, but instead more suitable for long-term enjoyment over many short sessions. I can see myself enjoying this game slowly for many months to come!
Death Squared is a very fun cooperative puzzle game that rewards cooperation but inspires players to mess around with each other. It might not be your main current game, but it fills an important gap in a game collection: a low-commitment game you can enjoy with those around you while having a lot of fun and feeling good about succeeding together. I am really happy I bought this game and would highly recommend it if you have any friends, siblings or partners you would like to spend some more time with.
Death Squared receives a Thumb Culture Gold Award!
Disclaimer: A code was received in order to write this review.