Death Squared is a puzzle solving game by SMG Studio in which the player guides two cubes at a time to reach two color coated endpoints. The puzzles get increasingly more elaborate and intense as you move forward. There aren’t any tutorials, but you will find that this game is as easy to play as picking up a controller. The challenge is being able to walk away before beating all 80 stages.
I had a Portal-like impression when I first started playing, and it does carry on that feeling in design and expression. The little robotic cubes don’t do much besides move in horizontal and vertical directions, but you are able to customize them at a point in the story mode. I gave the red bot a fancy mustache and I made sure to give the blue bot the smiling expression. I am not entirely sure what the point of the A, X, Y, and B buttons are necessarily, but you can make the bots blink, crouch, glare, and smile with their little lights glowing at the same time.
My favorite part of the game is the voice acting. I think the developers did a very good job with David and IRIS’ constant banter. They are both lively and sarcastic characters, it’s great listening to them talk trash about me messing up or just commenting on what I’m having the bots do. I also like the memos that come up in between sections, like the higher ups getting fed up with a lunch thief at the office, so they reserve the right to taze perpetrators. This has almost nothing to do with the game, but it helps build this world.
The major theme of the game is teamwork. You are mostly working with yourself, but it is more challenging than I had originally expected. Moving either of the bots can lead to the other’s destruction. For instance, you may be concentrating more on the red bot in one instance, but you may unknowingly spring a trap and accidentally kill your blue bot. There is also a yellow bot, as well as green bot, so the combination of color sensitive traps are plenty, and you have to take that into account while traversing the blocky stages. The game provides you with a death count too, and it’s fairly easy to see that number escalate. Some puzzles require patience, timing, some coordination, and attention to detail.
The soundtrack is fitting for this kind of setting and game. It seems like the same track loops in the background. The ambience is not distracting at all, and it mellows out the frustration of dying a hundred times. Mostly. The sound effects are also somewhat striking, like the first moment your bot gets crushed.
The game is also very clean and polished. There are hardly any hiccups that disrupt your playtime. My only instance of troubleshooting was when I tried using the red bot to save the blue bot from falling. They both went flying before blowing up below the stage. The controls are sensitive, but that is a part of the puzzle solving. You will need to move slowly at times to avoid getting wrecked by lasers or spikes.
Here is the Death Squared Trailer:
Overall, Death Squared is a pretty decent puzzle solver, and it is fun to play and to listen to David and IRIS. I wish there was more to do to, at least in terms of controller options. I think a fair rating for this game should be a 9 out of 10, for being a somewhat challenging puzzle solver that is inviting to people of all experiences.
Death Squared is now available for PS4, Xbox One, PC and Mac on Steam. It’s coming to Nintendo Switch in Q2 2017.