You will die a lot. Those five words neatly explain what will happen when you play Death Squared.
Want more? - For the most part you will be entirely responsible…
However you’re here for the complete package; So Death Squared is firstly a puzzle game and secondly a test on how well you can keep calm under pressure and not shout at each other*.
Now sidestepping the plot for a moment I’ll attempt to explain the basics of the game.
There are cubes that you control. In single player there are two (red and blue) whilst in multiplayer there are four (add a yellow and green to the mix).
So the number of players varies from 1, 2 or 4. The play environment is composed of tiles with various properties and a few other ‘toys (?)’ whose actions are in response to switches or to the movement of specific player cubes.
The basis of the game is to move these coloured cubes from their starting positions to their respective goals (denoted with a matching coloured circle).
And with that simple premise be prepared for torture.
Initially the levels are a little pedestrian. The linear routes helping to focus your attention on the obstacles you face. As the levels go by the game starts to introduce features and what can only be called ‘tricks’ that are designed to foil your progress. Part of the game’s design is that you’re expected to die since some of the traps when released are unavoidable; that surprisingly doesn’t mean it’s unfair, just designed to give you a good rubbing just when you think that you’re home and dry.
Later levels open out the playfield which actually does provide a different challenge. You are now faced with the question of which way shall I go (?) and is that tempting switch part of the test or a lure to extract another fatality. The deaths you experience are totalled for each level and there is no limit to the number of lives, you just restart the level after your demise. The challenge is in solving the puzzle and remembering the solution as you negotiate the ‘dance’ that you perform with the bots to ensure their survival.
At this point I’m going to veer away from the play mechanics and look at presentation. The cubes are ‘in fact’ A.I. bots and inhabit a series of test chambers. In game the inter-level sequences are characterized with audio of David, a slacker employee, and Iris his A.I. companion discussing life, the universe and well everything A.I. bot related.
All this does sound very Portalesque but is very well done and sets the context for the puzzles whilst giving the player a continuing narrative (and confession time I have no idea what happens at the end – I’ve yet to finish the thing).
In fact the presentation of the whole package is of a high standard with a consistent look and feel. Apart from the colour, the bots are identifiable by an increasing number of lights giving them all ‘faces’ with an additional light on the top to show which bot you’re controlling. This brings up another point about the control system. Each of the Switches controllers operate one of the Bots and can also operate one additional bot when required. So in single player each stick operates its own Bot (a note to Neon owners here – the Bot colours are OPPOSITE to the controller colours) whilst in Multiplayer you may be required to control an extra Bot by holding down the shoulder button).
As you progress the levels unlock and you can revisit completed levels at any time. There is also a series of extremely hard levels (The Vault) for both single and multiplayer that are unlocked after you complete the respective sections. As I’ve not managed to complete the game yet I cannot comment on the difficulty of the bonus levels. So what lies beyond in unknown so I’ve no idea if you’d consider them a reward or a curse.
So the all-important round up. Is it any good?
Well yes it is but don’t wander in thinking that it will be easy or a quick game. It is a challenge and one that will keep you busy for quite a while.
Now if you excuse me I’ve some A.I. Bots that I’ve got to lead to their early death.
*Multiplayer only feature (shouting at the game is available in both single and multiplayer modes)
Death Squared for the Nintendo Switch was provided to us for an honest review. More information can be found and where to buy the game from, here.
- Neil Kenny