When I first heard about this game, the name threw me at first. Death Squared sounded significantly different from what it turned out to be. What it is, in fact, is a cooperative puzzle game from SMG Studios.
Death Squared releases on March the 14th on Steam, Xbox One and Playstation 4, at a price of $20 US.
The general idea of Death Squared is that the player or players control small robot cubes which have to complete various tasks to move through the levels. The main selling point is the cooperative nature of the game. Normal play includes two cubes, whereas party play can have up to four. Cooperation is needed between the players, otherwise the levels cannot be completed.
Graphics and Style
Normally, level based puzzle games are not particularly graphics intensive. In fact, some of them are so basic you could run them on a graphical calculator if you felt so inclined.
But this game takes a bit more of an effort. The levels are built in 3D and are textured nicely. The explosions of dying robots are well rendered and have some punch.
Style-wise, it follows the more cartoony look that would make it appealing to a wide range of people, and to suit the general comic nature of the game itself. The robot cubes can be customised with different paint jobs to make them look more interesting.
Sound and Music
Everything here is well done and suits the situation. The music is present while not being intrusive and melds well into the background. The narration that appears throughout the story mode is well performed.
As this is a puzzle game, gameplay is pretty standard across the board. It largely consists of getting your robot cube to it’s end point. This will involve progressively harder means. But in addition to just getting the robot cubes to the end points, this has to be done with multiple cubes.
One can play solo (what the developers call ‘Lonely Co-op’), and control two robots at once, controlled by different sets of keys, depending on platform. As I played it on PC, I used the cursor keys to control one robot, and WASD to control the other. Mostly what I did at that point was forget which set of keys controlled which, and steered the robots off the level… repeatedly. Otherwise, another person can control the other robot in the main 80 levels.
There is also Party mode, where four people control a robot each. Depending on what sort of friends one has, much trolling could ensue. I don’t have friends who would play this game with me, or friends at all really, so I did not get to test this mode in full functionality.
The title of the game here refers to the style of game where one will die, a lot. The only way to complete the levels is through a trial and error process. Dangers are not always immediately noticeable, and can only be found through the death of a robot cube. So one has to figure out the moves needed to complete the level, while remembering where the dangers lie and avoiding them too. This is not uncommon for puzzle games.
Something that is usually not overtly present within level based puzzle games like this is a whole lot of story. The format of the game doesn’t really allow for a lot of story. This game is no different. Though I have mentioned the ‘Story Mode’ earlier, this consists of short cutscenes of computer software going through processes while a voice over conversation is held between some form of A.I. and a man, who are observing the levels. These parts between levels, and other narration during play, set an over-arcing story line where the robot cubes are in tests to help develop their artificial intelligence.
The dialogue between the two characters, the A.I. and the man, is humorous and keeps the tone of the game quite light. It also brings a reason to the game, to why the robot cubes are doing what they are doing.
Death Squared is a well made and good looking game that could bring hours of enjoyment to those interested in this style of puzzle game. The developers recommend people play it with someone else who might not be into games, as a bridge to introduce them to gaming in general. I could also see this being a good game for a parent to play with the kids, both for enjoyment and educational reasons.
Any bad things? Perhaps one. The game supports one, two or four players, but not three. Not a problem for most people, one thinks, but it could be a deal-breaker for some. The price is also a little steep.
SCORE: 3 out of 4 Robot Cubes (75%)
Reviewed on: PC
Review System: Significantly better than what is needed.
Time played: Enough.
Death Squared home page
Death Squared Steam page
SMG Studios home page