Death Squared is a cooperative puzzle game developed and published by SMG Studio.
The first puzzle game I played was Professor Layton and the Curious Village. Some of the puzzles in that game would be too much for me at some points, but I found it a lot of fun to be challenged in a way that wasn’t just about defeating enemies or reaching a goal. I went on to playing other puzzle games like Pictobits, Portal, and World of Goo. Each one of these games were special and I consider them close to my heart. I never really played a multiplayer puzzle game until Death Squared. I believe that at its core Death Squared is a good puzzle game, but it suffers from a lack of innovation and an overall bland presentation that prevent it from being truly special.
A Human and an AI Walk Into a Bar…
In Death Squared, you control color coded cubes that are meant to be AI robots. While you control the robots, a supervisor named David and a supercomputer AI voice similar to GLaDOS (Portal) make jokes and commentary about your gameplay. David and the AI are testing the artificial intelligence capabilities of the robots you control as part of their job at Omnicorp. The witty jokes and conversations between David and his AI friend can be entertaining, but the humor was not exactly my cup of tea. There isn’t more to say about the story or the characters of Death Squared because that is about all there is to know. This is a puzzle game first and foremost, so an original engaging story is not something I was expecting.
AI Testing Doesn’t Have to Be This Gray
I think the overall presentation of Death Squared is uninteresting. Nearly every level takes place on floating gray blocks, with a dark background, and somewhat repetitive music. Colors in this game are mostly found in the AI robots you control and the items they interact with. I assume the levels and backgrounds of the game are gray so that the AI robots and their objectives stand out, but it just felt uninspired to me. Death Squared is also a relatively simple game in terms of graphics, but I experienced hiccups and a lack of anti-aliasing in both handheld and docked mode. Constant 60 frames per second and the highest graphical fidelity are not required for a game that focuses on patient puzzle solving, but it is something I wanted to note. As far as I was able to tell, there are no Switch specific features like HD Rumble.
If Only AI Testing In Real Life Was This Fun
Death Squared can be played by yourself or in a co-op mode up to four players. Like I mentioned earlier, in this game you control color coded cubes that are meant to be AI robots. The goal of each level is to help guide these cubes to circular buttons on the floor that match their color. Once you match every cube to its color, you’ve completed the level. It sounds simple (because it is), but as you progress to the later levels it gets delightfully more complicated. The game introduces new mechanics and obstacles for you to manipulate. The game never directly explains what each one does, but it doesn’t have to. Death Squared is a puzzle game that focuses on trial and error, and its color-coded system helps the player understand which color cube should interact with what object. After a few deaths, you’ll learn that the transparent blocks can only be passed by a cube of its corresponding color and serves as a wall or a floor for other colored cubes. There are way more mechanics the game introduces in later levels such as lasers that obliterate cubes of the opposing color, spikes that appear if you don’t calculate your movement accordingly, and floating blocks that are controlled by another cube’s movement.
Death Squared features 80 levels in its single player oriented story mode and 50 levels in its cooperative party mode. Death Squared also has a mode called the vault which features 30 difficult levels for 2 player pairs or 4 player co-op. This game is filled to the brim with levels if you can’t get enough from the lengthy story mode.
My biggest concerns with Death Squared are its lack of innovation and its overall bland presentation. A game doesn’t always have to innovate or have an extravagant presentation to be good. Death Squared is a good puzzle game with a multiplayer element that can make the game even more enjoyable. Unfortunately, it’s not enough for me to say that it makes it particularly special.
With my time with Death Squared, I enjoyed it. Some of the puzzles really stumped me at some points, but all I had to do was take a break from the game and try again with a fresh mindset. Playing with friends gets insane, especially when you can’t coordinate together. Once you’re all on the same page though, the game makes you feel like geniuses. Despite its uninteresting presentation and relatively safe ideas, Death Squared is a good puzzle game that creates opportunities for rewarding and exciting gameplay either by yourself or with friends.
Death Squared for Nintendo Switch will be available on July 13th for $14.99 on e-Shop.