Developer: SMG Studio
Publisher: SMG Studio
Platforms: Switch, PS4, Xbox One, PC
Rating: E for Everyone
I love a well done creative puzzle game, especially one that can be played with friends, and that’s the case with Death Squared out now on PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC. Does this game make you feel like a genius, or is it just a puzzling nightmare?
Language/crude humor: Nothing really to speak of other than a instance of snarky humor from the human narrator to his AI companion.
Death Squared is a puzzle game which has an emphasis on multiplayer, even though you can play the entirety of the two-player and four-player modes by yourself, but of course the fun factor shoots way up if you have friends to play with. The story revolves around a guy performing tests with AI-squared bots which you control. He also interacts with what can be described as an AI mainframe which gave off some surprising similarities to Glados from the Portal series. Though not near as memorable as Glados’ snarky/sarcastic remarks, there is still plenty of comedic reactions between the two with little cutscenes diving into why these experiments are happening in the first place.
All of Death Squared’s levels are set up like a diorama, with your goal being to get your two colored bots to their appropriate colored platform. To do so, of course, you will have to control both of them, whether that be in single-player using the two analog sticks or multiplayer having each player control one bot. There’s plenty of creativity when it comes to the puzzle solving and its always throwing new elements at you so it never ends up getting dull.
For instance, you’ll have one puzzle consisting of having to move one bot over a switch; it may send up red spikes making it impossible for the blue square to travel over, or there may be different colored lasers which only certain colored squares can maneuver. There’s plenty of movement manipulation where moving one bot will shift over many other blocks and other things in the level you are working on meaning you have to be careful to not push one of your bots off of an edge. Trying to speed through parts you think you may have solved will end up knocking one of your bots down into the abyss and having to restart if you are not careful. Its quick pace fortunately means there’s not much loading between deaths and you will be able to get right back into the puzzle solving with not wasted time.
It will take you quite awhile to get through the main story because there are 80 missions to get through and each stage is always throwing new mechanics and puzzle elements at you such as trip wires, different colored robots, etc. You really have to learn how each of these elements work so you’re able to get the bots to their desired location. There is a little leeway sometimes for completing missions, as I was finding my way to manipulate some bot movements to barely get onto a spot and skip over necessary puzzle elements the game intended you to play. But, most of the time you truly have to solve the puzzles the right way and make sure everything is precise in order to move onto the next stage.
While you just have the red and blue robots to control during the main story, you can jump into party mode with four players and are introduced to a yellow and green bot as well. When playing single-player you can still play Party mode, you just have to hold the left trigger to control one robot with the left analog stick and the right trigger to control the other robot with the right analog stick. This, as you can imagine, is a bit confusing so I highly recommend you play Party mode with four other players though, as mentioned before, everything can be played by yourself.
All that really changes up in the party mode are new stages with variations of mechanics and puzzle elements you’ve seen before. Only now since you are dealing with two other bots this leads to many more chaotic moments, but also more enjoyment and laughter seeing what mischief you can get into within each stage. There is a total of 40 levels in party mode with altogether 120 levels between the two modes.
Throughout the course of the game there are hidden collectibles to gather and there are cosmetic items you can find to decorate your robots, mostly just adding decals or glasses to each bot, adding a little extra flare and personality to the game. From the technical side, Death Squared ran flawlessly and experienced no instances of glitches or slowdown present.
I wish there was more variety in locations and aesthetics as the general look of the game can become dull over time. Though SMG Studio tries to change things up, the same core gameplay experience remains, and there are few cutscenesto flesh out the story. These issues aside, if you are someone who enjoys puzzle games, and even if you are not the biggest fan of the genre, Death Squared may be worth checking out even when playing by yourself. Keep in mind the controls take some time to get use to and still further into the game I found myself stumbling with certain motions leading to a lot of accidental deaths. If you intend to play with friends Death Squared is an absolute joy to play.
Review copy generously provided by Stride PR
The Bottom Line
Death Squared is well worth the investment and is definitely a title puzzle game enthusiasts should pick up and everyone else might find enjoyment from, especially with friends.