Death Squared is basically if Portal had no shooting in it, and the only things that die repeatedly are the companion cubes, and there’s at least two of them. In single player, anyway. Both the forever alone (or occasionally a twosome) story mode and the four-man multiplayer mode feature charismatic colorful cubes that explode theatrically at the slightest bump, whether due to being impaled by spikes, blasted by lasers, or just by falling off the stage because it’s your own damn fault for forgetting which one was controlled by the arrow keys or the WASD keys.

Platform Reviewed: PC
Platform Available: PC (Steam), PS4
Developer: SMG Studio
Publisher: SMG Studio
Release Date: March 14, 2017
Price: $19.99 /P499.95 (Steam)
This review is based on a review build provided by the developers/publisher.

An interesting take on the Point A to Point B style puzzle games, Death Squared puts you in the very square shoes of an AI system, being monitored by two characters taken straight out of the Aperture Science playbook. In the solo mode that I played, you control two cubes, being the red and the blue, in their quest to reach the red and blue discs placed somewhere else on the stage. This is mostly simple outside of the aforementioned death traps, which are triggered by switches, movement, or non-lethal lasers.

There’s also lethal lasers, but interestingly enough the cubes seem to be immune to obstacles that are the same color as them. Some puzzles also employ holo-cubes, which are physical to cubes of a different color, and nonexistent to cubes of the same color. As seen in the title screen, cubes can also stack on top of each other, and some puzzles involve ferrying them to higher platforms to reach switches or other objects.

One stage I frustratingly repeated had holo cubes that would swipe left to right depending on where I put the cube of the corresponding color, resulting in the partner cube getting knocked to the depths below. A lot of deaths in this game are entirely your fault, and my own reactions to this ranged from sheer laughter to stony-faced frustration.

If you’re playing with a partner this effect is compounded as you’ll be laughing at whoever just fell over at the start of the level. Getting each other killed by accident is also fun, with me and my partner half laughing and half apologizing to each other between levels. The game does remind you how many cubes you’ve murdered in this manner, and how long it took to do so.

Stages are numbered and can be re-challenged in any order, but unlocked sequentially through the story mode. There are 80 levels built in aside from the Vault challenges. You can keep track of your death count and the time it took to clear the stage, and challenge them repeatedly to get a better score. As the solo mode can actually accommodate two players.

I’d recommend clearing a few stages yourself to get the feel of the unusually fluid controls, then grab a friend to play the rest of the mode with you for some laughs. The four player multiplayer requires controllers, as presumably you’d run out of keyboard space for four hands. I personally think this mode might actually work well if it were ported to mobile.

As you progress, you are entertained with dialogue between your two observers, the lovely robotic IRIS and her human charge, David. The banter tends to shine a light on the world surrounding the game, as they chatter on about how your AI’s performance ranks in the real world, mentioning things like farming and sanitation services.

These exchanges are anywhere from cute to annoying, and this extends to some loading screens where bits and pieces help to fill in the blanks of what appears to be a corporate and squeaky clean future for humanity. Funnily enough this has the occasional effect on gameplay – when David gets his hands on some more advanced controls, he tinkers with the game settings and reverses your controls. This doesn’t disrupt gameplay too much, but it’s an interesting way of connecting the world flavor to the action.

High Notes:

  • Refreshing take on an existing style of game.
  • Unusually endearing cubes.
  • Playing solo is challenging – playing with friends is a lot more fun! A great co-op game.
  • There is some replay value as the puzzles aren’t so simple as to have the solutions be memorized.

Low Notes:

  • Movement isn’t tile based, so there are times where you can get killed because of how movement works, if you’re not careful.
  • Solo mode can get frustrating, but it’s clearable. That said, the game shines more if you have a buddy to play with. It’s not the most enjoyable solo experience.
  • IRIS and David can get annoying sometimes, especially if you’re tilted after a 20 minute attempt at a level.
  • Vault challenges are story locked. This was a bit of a disappointment for me as it can take a while to clear story mode.

7.8

GOOD

A RECOMMENDED GAME, IT’S MISSING A FEW THINGS BUT IT’S A FUN EXPERIENCE FOR PLAYERS.
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