Death Squared has been out on the Nintendo Switch since July 13th, 2017 but with the upcoming Japanese release and content update for Death Squared, I thought it was the perfect time to once again put on my thinking hat and delve into another puzzle game for the Switch. I got to check out the new update for Death Squared at Tokyo Game Show, and started to fall in love with the game’s charm. Death Squared is developed by SMG Studio, who for full disclosure provided a copy of the game for review. Does Death Squared cross the finish line, or is it a dud? I’m PushDustIn with Source Gaming, and let’s get started with this review.
Death Squared has two modes, the story mode which can be completed with one or two players, and the party mode which is played with four players. Unfortunately, since I don’t have four controllers for the Switch, I wasn’t able to try the party mode out. However, I did play the story mode with my girlfriend and also by myself. I can definitely say the game is more enjoyable with someone by your side.
The story is pretty quirky. The cubes that the players control are being ‘tested’ by OmniCorp for their A.I. research. Dave, the research assistant can be heard through voice over that plays at the start of levels, and has comical interactions with IRIS, a computer assistant. Some of the lines of dialogue can be random, but some will depend on how the players are doing. For example, Dave and IRIS will make jabs when players are taking awhile to solve a puzzle. The writing is extremely tight, the voice acting is solid, and overall it really enhances Death Squared’s experience. There are some jokes in Death Squared will date the game in the future such as referencing that annoying Windows 10 update.
Death Squared will drive you insane. Like the name suggests, players who take on the challenge of Death Squared will find themselves dying…a LOT. The game is all about experimentation and communication. The gameplay can sometimes be very frustrating because it can rely too much on experimentation. Players will sometimes die just because pressing a button will suddenly activate a laser, or spikes will suddenly come out of the floor. The game presents minimal information to the players. Thankfully, respawning and restarting the level is extremely quick. However, the game does keep track of the players’ total deaths, and I haven’t seen a way to reset that status…which is unfortunate as I played the game with some friends who were ‘under the influence’.
Levels have a lot of variety among them. Sometimes players will need to control multiple cubes, or sometimes moving the cubes will adjust the positions of lasers. There’s 80 levels for the main story mode, and I never felt like levels were repetitive or boring. Players are only able to move with the cubes. There isn’t jumping or a lot of ‘platforming’. Death Squared doesn’t have as many ‘gimmicks’ as Puzzle Adventure Blockle, but Death Squared utilizes what it has in interesting ways.
I do wish there was online co-op. There are ways to signal with the blocks, so having online co-op without voice chat is doable. However, Death Squared is probably at its’ best when playing with friends in the same room…so I’m not sure is entirely essential. It would be a nice option at the very least.
After completing either the story mode or the party mode, players will unlock additional levels to play. Some of the later levels in the story mode can be really difficult, and take a while to complete. I’ve played the game for several hours before writing this review.
Death Squared has a pretty solid presentation that really enhances the overall package. Death Squared seems to take a lot of inspirations from Portal but doesn’t outright copy it, or tread the same ground. The graphics look great when docked. The music doesn’t get annoying, and as I mentioned before the voice acting is fantastic. I wish there was more variety with the level design as they all have the same generic lab theme.
The camera angle can be a problem at times in Death Squared. There was one level in particular, that I wasn’t aware that I could’ve landed on a different platform because I couldn’t really judge the distance, or see behind it. Being able to rotate the camera would allow players to see the whole level, and thus better understand the puzzle. I can understand why that option isn’t there for multiple players, but it should be available for single player.
Death Squared does a lot of things right. Overall, it’s an extremely solid experience. With two Joy-Cons on every system, Death Squared feels right at home on the Switch. Find someone to play Death Squared with and enjoy the ride.
I give Death Squared a 4.5/5.
Mains: Yoshi (64), Game and Watch (Melee), Wario (Brawl), Wario/Pac-Man (Smash for 3DS/Wii U)
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