By Dalton McClain / March 9th, 2017
|Release Date||March 14th, 2017|
|Platform||PS4, Xbox One, PC|
|Age Rating||E for Everyone|
Death Squared is a puzzle game from the creative minds at SMG Studio. You control two robots as you go through the AI testing at Omnicorp, a company with a monopoly on seemingly everything. Your job, should you choose to accept it, is to make it as far as you can in the testing protocol to qualify for a job at one of the many Omnicorp locations. Who knows? You may even make it to the end. I’ve heard that not many have done that, so who knows what might happen.
The entire game is narrated by David Valenzuela, a human AI tester, and his AI named Iris. The two have a lot of quirky banter back and forth, which is very reminiscent of the Portal series of games. Depending on how well you’re doing they will either praise you or passive-aggressively ridicule you for messing up so much. They make a lot of pop culture references and jokes, and overall it’s just fun to sit and listen to them talk to one another.
The design of this game is simple, but that works in the game’s favor seeing as it’s set in a sort of factory. You really do get the sense that these are just dispensable robots in a dispensable testing chamber. They’re all very simplistic, which makes sense from a production standpoint. You aren’t going to build a lot of highly detailed robots if you know they aren’t going to work. You build simple ones to test the AI before building the better models. The level design works too because you’ll want to use a lot of the same materials if they’re only going to be used for testing purposes and nothing more. The whole thing just adds to the overall charm of the game.
Even the simple design of the robots makes you connect to them. You really start to care about the robots in the game, just as David starts to care about them. You can customize them with face paint, some of which is hidden in certain levels, and make them use simple expressions such as smiling. The more you play, the more you grow fond of the little robots that you’ve been controlling throughout the testing.
The music and sound design of the game are much of the same. The background music is very serene to help keep you calm on some of the really difficult puzzles. Even the little sound effects in it help add to the ambiance. Everything in this game just sounds right. The sound effects fit the feel of the game and mesh really well with the setting. Everything looks and sounds exactly like it should, which is more than enough to ask.
The controls, as well, match the simple nature of the game. The game is of course meant to be played in multiplayer, but if you do decide to tackle it in single player then you have your own control scheme. Each of the analog sticks controls a certain robot, and that’s it. Movement feels tight and exactly like if you were controlling a robot with only one wheel in real life. They do get a little finicky at times if you get too close to the edge, but other than that the game controls beautifully. In party mode you can control four robots instead of two. The controls are the same, but you have to hold in L2 or R2 to control the yellow or green robot respectively. The gameplay is mostly the same apart from controlling more characters. Occasionally you will have to deal with obstacles such as lasers throughout the testing, but the challenges are fair and require a good deal of thought to solve.
Overall I love the look and feel of this game. The only problem that I had with it was the random difficulty spikes. In a puzzle game you would expect the difficulty to gradually get harder as the game went on, but in this one the difficulty seemed to spike at random intervals. The game would be going along and I would be solving puzzles every five to seven minutes, then all of a sudden I get to a puzzle that takes over 30 minutes to solve. This really didn’t hinder my love of the game; it just made it a little more frustrating at times.
Death Squared will cost $19.99 at release and I can’t recommend that you pick this game up enough. The story mode took me almost six hours to beat and I’m still having a blast playing the party mode. So if you have some friends or family to play with, or if you just have a love for puzzle games, then definitely snatch this game up. It’s hours of fun, as well as a good challenge.
Review copy provided by the publisher.
Death SquaredSMG Studio