Puzzles games are an odd genre aren’t they? There’s something inherently dry about he way you interact with their mechanics, compared to more combat orientated games. I think its fair to say that most of us would much prefer to switch off our brains at the end of a long day then come home and test them some more. And yet, they sell like hot cakes. I mean, the best selling game of all time is a Puzzle game after all (Tetris for reference). Personally, I love me a good brain teaser. Figuring out a hard bit of lateral thinking really reinvigorates the brain and keeps you sharp. So I was dead excited to get my hands of Death Squared. Not just because this is an very tidy little puzzler, but because it was a game I could play from start to finish with my partner and not bully her off of the TV because I have work to do!
David is a blue collar worker for Omnicorp, a seemingly omnipresent organisation. It’s a stable job, sure, but like all desk jobs it lacks excitement. I can empathise, I have a day job and thats pretty boring from time to time, I’m sure we can all appreciate that. The difference here is that my job doesn’t involve laser, spikes and robots… well something robots. David tests AI, specifically their ability to work together and overcome obstacles. The story of Death Squared is told via conversations between David and his AI companion. Its the typical kind of relationship you expect to see between a human and a humourless robot, but its fun enough and get across the plot that doesn’t really do anything to blow you away, but it does keep the interest going throughout.
The visuals are very neat, which, ties into the whole product testing theme. Mostly whites and greys which make the colour coded puzzle pieces pop off the screen. Thats important, because you need to be able to distinguish between what’s gonna bounce harmlessly off you and what will kill you right and proper. The music is great. It appropriately has a techno style, but with a very chilled out vibe that really brings together the futuristic day job aesthetic.
In Death Squared you will die. I imagine that doesn’t come as much surprise given that its in the title. The game even has a death counter for the duration of the story, which ticks along happily while you’re scratching your head trying to figure where to even begin with the latest puzzle. The controls are exceedingly simple, in fact you really only have to move up, down, left and right. No jumping, now special gimmick mechanic, just movement. Its simplicity is massively refreshing, but also damn well deceptive because this game gets tricky. Because you can’t even jump in this game, the simple task of going up one block because a task of co-ordination and co-operation. In the main story their are two blocks, one red, one blue, who much work together to pass the challenges. While you can play Death Squared on your own (each analogue stick controls one bot), I really wouldn’t recommend it, this game is built for two players.
Adding a wrinkle to most of your puzzles are colour coded traps. The most basic of these hazards are blue and red blocks that will litter the environment. If you’re the blue bot, the blue squares will pass right through you like a ghost, but if you’re red, then the same blocks will be quite solid. Adding a further bit of complexity, most of these blocks will move in tandem with whoever has a matching colour. There are also lasers, and massive death spikes and tripe wires mixed in for good measure. So each puzzle because a dance of precise movement and stopping when necessary, because one step to far might just blow your partner to kingdom come. Obviously you can just kill your colleague for fun, but seeing as this is couch co-op I can’t guarantee you won’t get black eye.
Honestly, this could be the easiest review I’ve ever written. Death Squared is a cute, clever little puzzle game with a light comedic tone. Now I just about described every puzzle game release since Portal. Obviously I’m being extremely general, but there’s a lot of them, even the co op aspect doesn’t do that much to set it apart from the crowd. So the important question I need to ask here is: Does Death Squared do enough to earn your money over something like Snipperclips or The Witness? Honestly, I’d say no. As much fun as I had with Death Squared it just seems a little bland when compared to the other big puzzles games available. It may sound harsh, but we can only know the quality of something by comparing it to its peers. And while Death Squared is certainly not the runt of the litter, it’s not the star either.
But if your a fan of a good puzzle, or you just want a good time for you and a friend, then you can do a lot worse than Death Squared.