Death Squared Review
Death Squared, a co-op puzzler already on other consoles, has finally arrived on the Switch. You play as robot AI being “tested” by a man named David at the futuristic Omnicorp. The premise is simple: the tests involve you finding a way to get your robots to their respective safe spots, while avoiding pitfalls, lasers and lots of other hazards. While a bit repetitive, Death Squared’s mind games are well-executed and intriguing, and its 80 levels definitely offer their share of fun.
Death Squared has 3 modes: the main one is Story Mode, but there’s also Party Mode and Vault Mode. All are meant to be played Co-op with other people, but you can play Story Mode by yourself if you need to – in fact, I actually believe it is a bit better when played individually. You see, you are given two robots – a red one and a blue one – and you have to get both of them to their circular Home buttons safely while keeping them from falling off their platform, getting impaled by spikes, or burned by lasers. The trick is, each robot is controlled by a different controller. So that makes it a test of your coordination as well as your brain. Imagine the old game of patting your head and rubbing your tummy at the same time, and you have an idea of what skills Death Squared requires.
“If you love Portal, then you’ll enjoy what Death Squared throws at you.”
But Death Squared is also a formidable mind-bender as well. If you love Portal, then you’ll enjoy what Death Squared throws at you. Each level is laid out so that you often have to do specific movements of a specific robot, in a particular order to be successful. I found myself often just looking at the layout of the level for a while before I even began moving – much like I did when I played Portal. The game does a great job of introducing extra layers of complexity without the need for a Tutorial – for example, some cubes are holographic, only allowing one color robot to pass through; some other cubes turn into elevators when a plate is covered; and some cubes have hidden spikes that raise at certain times. My only criticism though is that some hazards (like the spikes) are not even hinted at until you are killed the first time. I believe it should be theoretically possible to finish a puzzle without dying once – but in Death Squared that is not possible unless you are psychic.
The 80 levels of Story Mode ramp up the difficulty smoothly, and I found the progression steady but challenging in a good way. This is a thinking-person’s game, and that is great but I wasn’t a huge fan of the very unforgiving nature of the game’s physics. Many of the times I failed a puzzle were just because my damn robot fell off the edge of the platform – as in, one slight twitch of my controller, and I was toast. I often felt that the edges of the platform were a bit too quick to slip you off the edge, resulting in many, many cheap deaths (and lost progress).
“Doing the same thing, but just with more difficulty, tended to wear thin after prolonged exposure.”
If I am being honest, by the 30th level or so, I grew tired of Death Squared a little bit. Doing the same thing, but just with more difficulty, tended to wear thin after prolonged exposure. Maybe the Switch is the ideal platform for a game like this, since you can put the game down and come back to it – something I definitely did a lot. SMG Studios tries to keep you entertained with the comical chatter between David and the AI playing in the background as you work. It has its moments (and it even attempts a story of sorts) but I found myself tuning it out for the most part, especially when doing one level multiple times.
If you wish to play Death Squared with friends, there’s Party Mode, which has up to four people working a level cooperatively, or you could just play Story Mode with another person controlling one robot. Either way, it adds a twist to the experience but I am not sure how “fun” it would be, since this game involves a lot of sitting and staring at the level, thinking rather than moving. Most of the time, one person would just be telling the other where to go, and I am not sure how appealing that will be.
“If you’re looking for a puzzler that tests your brain as well as your reflexes, then Death Squared will fit the bill nicely.”
If you’re looking for a puzzler that tests your brain as well as your reflexes, then Death Squared will fit the bill nicely. It’s a polished, well-executed entry in a well-trodden genre, and its many levels have a surprising level of creativity put into them. And as mentioned, the Switch is probably the ideal way to play it, since it allows for a casual approach that you can’t really get on the PS4 or Xbox One. That is important because I am not sure if there is enough depth to the experience to warrant a prolonged play session without tedium setting in.
** A Switch code was provided by the publisher **
- Well-designed puzzles
- Lots of levels
- Funny commentary
- Lack of depth and variety
- Really touchy physics