Developed by SMG Studios
Published by SMG Studios
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch (also available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Steam)
To no one’s surprise, the Nintendo Switch has become a fantastic console for local multiplayer games. Starting with unique indies like Snipperclips to to the recently released Overcooked: Special Edition, the Switch has seen a steady stream of games that push couch co-op. One overlooked title is Death Squared, a deceptively charming and challenging puzzle game that requires every bit of coordination and cooperation as the previously mentioned games.
In Death Squared you assume control over two to four robots and attempt to navigate them to their respective color coded goals. The premise of the game is that the robots you control are undergoing rigorous AI tests and must survive various obstacle courses. This involves activating switches, avoiding lasers, traversing around transparent blocks that move when you do, all of which are color coded. As the title implies, death comes easy and often as your robots will encounter obstacles such as spikes, lasers, pitfalls, and more. The core story mode features 80 levels designed for two robots, which you can either tackle alone by controlling each robot with the left and right analog sticks or, ideally, with a friend. Completing the game unlocks 30 additional Vault Levels that were deemed too hard for the main story mode.
The four player mode is where the game truly shines with over 40 levels that require teamwork and communication. The puzzles are more complex, the possibility of death is even greater, and the need to perform tricky maneuvers increases. Given how easy it is to accidentally your teammates by stepping on a switch or nudging them off a narrow walkway, Death Squared will result in a lot of laughter, frustration, and, most importantly, a desire to figure out the solution.
While the game is somewhat sterile in presentation, the narration provided by Dave, voiced by Rice Pirate, in the story mode provides a lot of snark, pop culture references, and humor to liven up the game. Dave’s back and forth chatter with Iris, his deadpan AI companion, lends the game personality and makes up for repetitive music during gameplay. Both Dave and Iris are part of a company called Omnicorp, so most of the chatter involve poking fun at working in a generic office environment. The random conversations and commentary do make you feel you’re partaking in a very cynical, clinical test in a mega corporation.
What the game lacks most is online multiplayer. While it’s best to play on the same couch with a group of friends, the inability to play with friends and strangers online is a missed opportunity for those that lack the necessary setup for four player co-op. It can get frustrating how easily you can fall or push an ally off an edge, especially when you’re close to completing a level. Also, as mentioned earlier, the game is somewhat lacking in the visual department; the upcoming addition of skins and hats for the robots will be a welcome update.
Death Squared is an ideal Switch party game thanks to its emphasis on cooperative gameplay and short, but challenging, levels. Whether you’re playing it on a TV or in portable mode at a coffee shop, Death Squared offers many hours of entertainment at a great value.