Puzzle games have always been a nutritious part of any gamer’s diet in the gaming world. Testing a player’s perseverance and wit, these games challenge the mind to formulate complex solutions for complex problems as players work towards an end goal. Designed for team cooperative play, Death Squared does just that. Play with anywhere from two to four players, putting both your group’s teamwork and friendships to the test. How many deaths does it take before a friendship ends?
Set to release on 14 March 2017 for Xbox One, Playstation 4, and PC, Death Squared was developed by the Australian “SMG (Sci-fi Mango Gremlins) Studio.” What SMG (Sizeable Mecha Gingers) stands for, they refuse to disclose, but that is their sense of humor. SMG (Suspicious Macho Guests) Studio relishes in their fun, age-appropriate, oddball sense of humor, and Death Squared is chock full of it.
Three game modes are featured in Death Squared, sporting 150 formidable levels to work through as a team. These modes include an 80-level two-player story mode, 40 levels of four-player party puzzles, and 30 “vault” levels deemed too hard for the normal game. SMG (Several Mad Gulls) Studio plans to continue development after official release promising the free addition of future vault levels, allowing Death Squared to offer many hours of team co-op fun. Even if you find yourself friendless, unable to get a couch-mate to come and play, a “lonely co-op” mode is available. Boasted as the “perfect gateway game” for non-gamers, Death Squared promises to keep anyone entertained.
Having the unyielding urge to test the declaration that Death Squared is perfect for non-gamers, I got help from a close non-gamer friend. With that mission in mind, we set out. The menus were very simplistic and easy to understand, with very few selections to choose from. The options offered nothing outside of what the player absolutely needs. They provided very basic audio and video settings with no control options. Selecting the two-player story mode, it was time to get started!
From the get-go, Death Squared proved to be incredibly simple to grasp. The first few levels acted as a sort of a “figure it out yourself” tutorial, but all controls came very naturally. Now expertly controlling our cube-shaped robots, it didn’t take long to realize that “story mode” was ineptly named. Playing as adorable cube-shaped robots who were created to test artificial intelligence, your only mission is to complete each test. You and your partner are being watched by one Omnicorp employee named David and his robot helper, Iris. The Dialogue is mostly spent with humorous banter between Dave and Iris, with Dave occasionally jeering at your failures.
Next thing I know, we are 50/80 levels into the game and there has been almost no story. The only new piece of the plot is the not so surprising discovery that Dave is a sub-par employee. It wasn’t until much later, when the fate of your little cubes are uncovered, that the story is revealed. Even when jamming the majority of the very simplistic story into just the finals levels, Death Squared still manages to hit you with a humorous twist.
Although it is very apparent Death Squared is not designed to include a life-changing saga. It does a very good job at using dialogue to keep you laughing as you murder your friends while struggling through difficult puzzles.
Let’s face it, having a story is good and all, but we are here to solve puzzles while accidently murdering our friends along the way. Each puzzle mechanic alone is very simple, but the combination and structure of those mechanics are fantastically complex. The goal of each puzzle is very simple. Guide your cube-shaped robot onto the node of its corresponding color. Sounds easy right? Wrong, as you and your friends move around, traps are triggered, executing your friends until eventually, you learn to avoid them.
Soon you realize there are color coded cubes in all the wrong places that only certain colored robots can pass through, where all other robots will not. To further complicate things, switches begin popping up, each switch activating something different. The only way to find out what it does is to give it a try, and probably kill a close friend. Next, your team encounters lasers that kill all robots except for one of a certain color, forcing them to block for the rest. Before long puzzles have gone absolutely insane, introducing tripwires, moving blocks, sky lasers and more!
As the mechanics combine into more complex puzzles, you find yourself getting more and more creative to find solutions. Many times I got the feeling I had outsmarted the puzzle and was cheating the system, but in reality, it was all by design. As in any puzzle game, you will get stuck and there are no hints in Death Squared. There is a solution to every problem – rely on your friends and work together through the tough spots.
There are many great things to say about Death Squared and few bad. The largest issue I had throughout the game was a slight lack of diversity. After eight or nine hours of looking at the same background and listening to the same soundtrack, a feeling of monotony can be created. This feeling only truly becomes apparent when your team inevitably hits a snag, and you find yourself stuck as it adds to the dullness of multiple repeated attempts. Other than that, your focus is pulled so fiercely toward solving each puzzle, that the boring background is hardly noticeable.
You play a puzzle game to solve puzzles, and Death Squared achieves that goal in a great way. The simplicity makes it a perfect party game, allowing anyone to grab a controller and immediately play. Add a few rules and it becomes a phenomenal drinking game! The complexity of the puzzles is challenging, engaging, and addicting. It is an absolute must have for both puzzle and party game fans. Death Squared is a game that tests and ultimately builds friendships; work together and have a blast!
Check out Death Squared releasing on Xbox One, Playstation 4, and PC on March 14, 2017. More information can be found on the Steam Store. Remember, there is a solution to every problem – work together, keep a cool head, have a few laughs, and before you know it the problem is solved!
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