Death Squared Review – Nintendo Switch

Death Squared broke me.

Now, I don’t mean broke as in a “made me break stuff” kind of way. Rather that on multiple occasions Death Squared reduced me to a near-blubbering mess of a person struggling to comprehend just how I’d solve the puzzle facing me. Yet eventually I’d overcome it, but that fleeting euphoria would last as long as it took for the next level to appear. I’d even go as far to say that there were definitely times where it invoked memories of another isometric problem-solving game from my past, one that also featured two characters who drove me head over heels insane at the best of times…

Reminiscence aside, Death Squared is a 2017 3D isometric cooperative puzzle game from Sydney gamedev SMG Studios. It’s based around an incredibly simple concept: Move your AI ‘bots from point A to point B. That’s it! Sounds easy in concept, right? Once you start throwing lasers, moving platforms, and needing to coordinate moves into the mix, suddenly you’re heading towards ‘broken’ territory. As an added bonus Death Squared is as couch co-op friendly as it gets, meaning that it’s another delightful game to play with people you don’t want to have to like for much longer.

While Death Squared can be enjoyed with up to 3 other people, I opted to spend the bulk of my time slogging through the 80 level single player story mode. I started out simple enough – move from the starting point to the round circles that serve as the goal. As the levels progress, more and more elements are introduced that forced me to use the tricks I’d learnt in a completely different way. The progression feels natural, and I never found the difficulty being artificially ridiculous just for the sake of slowing my progress down. There are times where it does feel like a struggle to push through lots of levels in a single sitting, with my 20 minute bus ride each day feeling like an optimal playtime before I started feeling broken and needing to stop. Your mileage may vary here, but it’s something that is negated by the more people you have to play it with.

Trying to enlist some celebrity assistance

So what about the story you ask? It revolves around a slacker named Dave (Voiced by Rice Pirate Mick) and his virtual assistant IRIS (also voiced by Rice Pirate Mick!). Dave’s a level 1 supervising technician at a futuristic robotics company who has one job: to monitor the AI Test ‘Bots (you!) as they go through their paces. Mick’s delivery and timing on his lines is fantastic, and really sells the banter between the two. This all plays out in the background as you work through the story mode along with the odd company email load screen, and complements the mode well.

When I’m Sixty-fouuuur

It’d be harder if the controls were unwieldy, but beyond a couple of times where I did something dumb and found myself getting stuck on the geometry, the twin-stick control method works pretty well. Left stick moves the Red ‘bot, while the right stick moves the Blue ‘bot, and this setup even plays into the puzzles in later stages. This can make for some rather tricky times when playing solo, as my brain would often assume the left stick corresponded to ‘bot on the of the screen, only to have the other one suicide off a ledge. I even tried giving one of the Joycons to my 5 year old, but he proved to be more frustrating than trying to just do it myself. To him, watching the colourful square dive off the edge and explode was the absolute height of hilarity! The edge detection on the platforms can be a little touchy at times, as I’d find a bot tumbling to its doom despite swearing I had ample space to maneuver. These moments were rare though, which is reassuring for a game that involves some fairly precise movements at times.

Booooom

One thing I’ll say is that this is a game that feels more at home on the Switch than any other platform I’ve seen it on (which is to say, Death Squared is on pretty much everything!). Given the Switch ships with two Joycons by default and the “pick up and play” nature of the system, this makes Death Squared a really good first game to grab if you’ve just gotten the console and want some co-op games to play. Add a pro controller or two into the mix, and there’s a party right there!

Did I mention it’s also only $14.99 on the Nintendo eShop (and slightly higher on other platforms)? Given there’s a good 8-10 hours of play in the story mode, and many, many more hours in the Party or super-hard Vault, Death Squared is definitely worth checking out.

Death Squared was reviewed on the Nintendo Switch. Played story mode to completion, and ran through a handful of the Party mode levels. Review code provided with thanks to SMG Studios.

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blahjediAaron Clement
Tassie based retro gaming guy. Co-host of the Press Play On Tape Podcast. Father of 3 and married to the very tolerant Kellie Clement. Coffee powered!

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