Monday, 13 March 2017 18:49

REVIEW: Death Squared (Xbox One)

Written by Stacefacemayhem
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When did ‘simple’ become such a bad word? Even now when someone says simple, I and probably the masses think boring, easy, plain or dull. Basically the colour white comes to mind, emotionless and cold. “Death Squared” by SMG Studio is simple, but far from these standards we hold the word simple to be. Three words that may more accurately describe it is “simplistic but effective”.

My first encounter with game was at RTX Sydney, watching from the far back in the sweaty hordes, as the team from FunHaus took on the Achievement Hunters, and I knew in that moment I had to review it, it just looked THAT fun. It was an itch I had to scratch. Home grown and produced on Australian turf, Death Squared is an arcadey puzzler with an exceptional approach on co-op play. Instead of working against each other, it is pivotal to work as a team, no lone wolf in this game. This game encourages communication whether it be helpful hints, aggressive advice, or flipping the bird in jest at your fellow teammates because you solved the problem first.

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The story begins with the sarcastically but oddly charmingly voiced, David. Not much is known about our elusive protagonist, other than he is testing (through your control) the intellectual ability of brightly coloured, adorable, little robots, for the tech company OmniCorp. Along the way you interact in conversations with IRIS the A.I computer running the tests. The banter is real between them and the conversations often quite comically set up the storyline. I know at home you are thinking this is very similar to Portal, and I suppose the premise is, but this game is oh so subtly different when you are actually playing.

You must control both blue and red robots, or one each with a partner, through 80, 3D, puzzled landscapes to an achievement marker, avoiding obstacles such as pits, spikes and laser beams, and using switches and barricades to assist along the way. Controlling these Rubik cubish robots is as simple as using the analogue sticks independently, to control one or the other, not one button is even needed (simple, right?). For such simple, pint-sized androids, these little chaps are brimming with character. It almost felt painful when they died, or exploded into a spray of nuts and bolts before your very eyes (effective, right?). My only critique of the actual gameplay is at times the movement can be a bit touchy, often sending your miniature pals careening over the edge to their doom. This only meant more precision play was needed the next time or seven....

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The Story/Co- Op Mode maybe the bread and butter of the game but the Party Mode is where the fun is turned up a volume. Now let me start off by saying, I like reviewing games. Yes, it is fun to play a new release but it also often gives me the opportunity to review myself as a ‘gamer’. Upon reviewing this game, it brought me to ponder over the fact of when did I start to prefer to game alone? And why? Long gone are the days we’d all gather together on the couch and play a game. Death Squared makes you relive that past.

In Party Mode, up to four players can each have their own robot to traverse the test chambers in 40 new levels. The puzzles are considerably more difficult in this mode as it requires a lot of communication. It was amusing watching my friends jump up and down next to me with new ideas, and even funnier to watch them fail. We yelled over each other in excitement, and rehashed and evaluated plans when they fell apart. The challenge then was talking your way through synchronizing movements, it became an actual art form in itself. Frustrating but also so exhilarating when you got that gratifying tick of completion.

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This game is all about learning. Learning from your mistakes, learning new ideas, learning new strategies and learning from your friends. The sense of reward after completing any level is what keeps you coming back for more. “Just one more level...” often crept out my lips as I was pushing along my little, Rockstar decaled cube.

Overall the game play is that straightforward it is mind blowing. Simple normally means entertainment is sacrificed but this is certainly not the case. I really enjoyed myself, the puzzles were challenging but not too annoyingly, you’d want to rage quit or throw your controller (I have issues). Death Squared is certainly a case of less is more.

Additional Info

  • Review Score: 4.0 / 5.0
  • Release Date: March 14th, 2017
  • Platform: PC, PS4, XBOX ONE
  • Developer: SMG Studio
  • Genre: Strategy, Puzzle