Review – Death Squared
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Game title: Death Squared
Is It About My Cube - 9/10
Bringing Game Cubes Back - 7/10
Sentient Robots - 8/10
Death Squared comes to us courtesy of Sydney’s SMG Studio and is a genuine gem of a game.
Available for PC, PS4 and Xbox One, Death Squared will be making its way onto the Nintendo Switch later this year. Since it’s being re-released on Switch, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to share my thoughts on the PS4 version and get y’all excited for the Switch release.
I’m loathe to compare Death Squared to other games because it’s highly original title. The best place to start though is at the cross-roads of Portal and Kula World. Death Squared is a spatial, logic puzzler, requiring co-ordination, communication and deft control. Playable solo and co-op, Death Squared offers plenty in terms of play and replayability.
Gameplay in Death Squared sees the player (or players) guiding 2-4 cubes from point A to B across a host of top-down levels. One or two players can take part in Story Mode, while one to four players can play Party Mode.
Story Mode is the meat of the experience and offers 80 levels of increasing difficulty to sink your teeth into. It’s been confirmed the Switch release will include additional levels and I can’t even begin to imagine how insanely difficult they’ll be. The existing levels aren’t difficult because they’re unfair. They’re simply difficult because they’re well designed and are based on an excellent concept.
To guide the robotic cubes through each level, player will need to work together. There are moving parts, lasers, holes in the floor and more to traverse. The fun is in working out how each level fits together, pull it apart in your mind and guide the cubes smoothly through.
I much preferred to play alone which meant I was in control of two cubes with one controller. At first the mental gymnastics are exhausting; Left stick, blue cube. Right stick, red cube. Eventually it becomes second nature, but it does take a while.
Homer! You’re Not Listening
I can’t even tell you the number of times I drove my cubes over the edge because I’d forgotten which control stick was for which cube. Surprisingly, I never got mad at the game. I’m a notorious tantrum-chucker and Death Squared is pure tantrum fodder. Funnily enough though, every time I died, I knew it was because of my own dumb mistakes. The concept is so simple, but so deliciously tricky that it’s never the game’s fault you died.
The same can be said of the level design. Each and every one of the levels in Death Squared is masterfully put together. And every single one of them (beyond the earliest of them) made me have an “A-ha!” moment. Elements are gradually introduced and the levels are made gradually more complex, but the goal never changes. All you need to do to succeed is get the red cube to the red spot and the blue cube to the blue spot.
For all the dying you’ll do, Death Squared, thankfully, features instant respawning. If there was any delay between dying and starting the level again, Death Squared would border on unplayable. SMG Studio has wisely made it so dying is a learning experience, rather than a punishment. This is doubly true for co-op. You just know that your mates are going to kill you or die on purpose.
To Die and Live Again
Death Squared is a champion for couch-cop and doesn’t include online multiplayer. It feels like an oversight at first, but after playing for a few hours I couldn’t imagine doing so online. The joy and excitement of finishing a level together can’t really be replicated unless you’re in the same room.
Tying the entire experience together is a loose story featuring David and Iris. David is a desk jockey for Omnicorp and Iris is his AI. Together, they’re tasked with observing the cubes progress to determine whether or not they’ve achieved some form of sentience. It’s all very low-key and played for laughs.
David and Iris discuss office policies, lunch and various other topics, all the while gradually revealing more about Omnicorp and its intentions to the player. There’s a real Portal vibe to their commentary and it adds an additional layer to the already brilliant proceedings.
Death Squared is the kind of game you pull out at a party and get everyone to try. It already perfectly achieves its goals and I imagine that playing on Switch with four players is going to be just as good if not better. Death Squared is a devilish puzzle game that’s easy to start playing and nearly impossible to put down.
Death Squared was reviewed on PS4 using a digital download code provided to PowerUp! by SMG Studio.