Nintendo is no stranger to multiplayer party games that get you and your friends teaming up or facing off against each other. We all know of titles that can either cement or destroy friendships purely because of the game’s nature. Puzzle games are a great way to get you and 3 other players to solve problems together, and Death Squared offers that with its unique spin on the genre.
Let’s get a bit botty, mate
Although you could go at Death Squared’s story mode on your ace, the game is essentially built to be enjoyed with a co-op partner. The story mode sees you controlling AI robots and navigating them through obstacles while being monitored by David Valenzuela, a systems test technician accompanied by his AI counterpart Iris at the fictitious Omnicorp. The pair makes for a charming and comical mash up while you work your brain, trying to not have your AI bots explode while the duo react to your failed attempts in a condescending fashion. Witty and entertaining in places, you’ll hear of incidents at work that left people without appendages and the usual politics that come with working for a corporate and so on, but the whole thing can fall flat at times.
A square eye for the puzzle guy
First and foremost with any puzzle game is the gameplay. The game has some rudimentary mechanics with which you guide your robot AI across a grid of blocks and obstacles. Your aim is to align the coloured bots with the corresponding discs placed within the puzzle grid. Obstacles come in the form of translucent cubes that mimic the colours of the bots and have an adverse effect on certain bots, i.e. red translucent blocks have no impact on the red bot, but serve as a barrier or platform for the blue bot. There’s also laser beams and spikes that either reveal themselves when you trigger colour-coded squares or track you as you move along the grid with blue lasers affecting the red bot and vice versa.
You think you die a lot on Dark Souls? You got another thing coming.
All these inhibitors force you to approach each obstacle with caution. Getting the job done quickly is simply not an option as any irrational move could spell death for you or your co-op partner. Some instances will see you or your partner taking turns to figure out the best way to get to your goal. This can prove to be hair raising at times when your partner either doesn’t take the time to evaluate the situation and take all moving objects into consideration, or just can’t get to grips with the sensitive controls. You think you die a lot on Dark Souls? You got another thing coming.
Expect to see regurgitation with some of these concepts throughout your playthrough and the creativity in level design to hit its peak by level 28 as there’s only so much you can do with AI bots, lasers and ghost blocks. There are some that require you to think beyond a single level within a puzzle or the grid itself, but that’s about as diverse as it gets.
Four heads are better than one…
Sometimes. Once you’ve mastered the art of navigating a single grid with two separate parties and completed the 80 Story mode levels of the game, it’s probably time you increased the numbers by heading over to the Party mode. This mode has you and 3 other plays (or you and one other player) taking control of four AI bots. Without communication and pursuit of a common goal, this mode can get pretty chaotic. There are a few instances where you’ll have to physically carry your team mates across the grid to get them to the level that they need to be on, all while dodging obstacles and hoping the other players don’t trigger any booby traps. Some levels will have you sitting for a full 10 minutes trying to figure out who should move first and where. For the impatient out there, this can get frustrating. The early levels can be very entertaining, but as you progress through the later stages, you start testing your resolve with your team mates and the game.
If you and your friends do hit it off though and need some more challenges to complete, you can always head over to the Vault where you’ll gain access to newly developed levels to test your puzzle solving abilities. The additional content of the Vault can only be unlocked by completing the Story and Party modes respectively (that’s all 40 Party levels and all 80 Story levels).
If you like block parties, then this is your jam
Death Squared is typically a puzzle game that anyone can pick up and enjoy. The real value comes through when enjoyed with friends participating, working together to solve challenging puzzles. Although entertaining and a pretty solid concept, it lacks variety and could do with additional inventive content to push the envelope with this unique offering.