There’s an age-old question that’s been asked many times in video games, can cubes feel love? It’s led developers to develop a fascination with anything cube related from Blocks that Matter to Portal. Except we gamers are a sick bunch and everything must be about conflict, even involving cubes. Anything cube related such as boxes, squares and for mentioned cubes often get placed ghastly experiments for no good reason. Death Squared is another emotional journey of brainless cubes just trying to get home or be destroyed for our amusement.
The big question is can we connect to cubes on an emotional level? Also, are their deaths beneficial and truly amusing? Read on.
In Death Squared, you take control of two adorable cubes (as adorable as cubes can be) who under the guidance of an idiotic scientist and his AI advisor, and will traverse 80 challenge rooms that progress in difficulty. These puzzles are to determine whether said cubes are best suited as janitor bots or be used to replace a broken leg of a chair. Harsh but fair.
To play Death Squared, you will use each of the analog sticks to control a cube with the basic of functions, simply put you make them move in all directions. There is no advanced sense of movement such as jumping, but cubes can easily interact with their environment and engage pressure pads, block certain types of lasers and fall to their deaths (Hahaha!). While puzzle rooms expand with progression and offer an array of different death traps, interactions and layouts to truly test your patience, lateral thinking and speedy reflexes.
The goal for each test is for each cube to reach their finishing point and work together to overcome obstacles. While the two cubes don’t express any emotions other than dying or lighting up when you finish the test, there is some decent comic relief. The commentary from our idiot scientist and the blunt-witted AI companion do lighten the mood with witty banter and some genuinely funny set pieces. They never overstay their welcome or annoy you with constant and irritating harassment if you become stuck in a test.
The biggest aspect to ensure success for these little cubes is teamwork as different factors will impair one cube’s progression but may not the other. For example, there are two different colored lasers with each one being able to destroy one of the cubes. So, the Red cube can block the path of the red laser in order to allow the Blue cube to move by unharmed and Vice versa. There’s a great deal of variation in level designs and situations with a small selection of game objects and interactions. New elements are introduced every so often and the sheer complexity of the level design grows. Stages are never so long that they become tedious as dying results in the stage being restarted. Death Squared is a game where trial and error comes strongly into play and working out the functionality of certain pressure pads or other environmental obstacles may need to be done through dying.
Death Squared allows players to learn by their failures and soon enough you’ll grasp the workings of the world; it’s easy to recognize how a level works by simple observation. Over time you’ll be cautious and gain a sense of how the world works, what could possibly kill you and when it can kill you; you see early on that pressure pads will result in both positive and negative reactions. So when the blue cube is due to interact with a pressure pad, it’s best to ensure the red cube is out of the way to avoid moving platforms or spikes coming up from the floor.
Death Squared is engaging and does just enough to ensure the experience never becomes tedious. However, there is a lack of alternating sceneries or the inclusion of any major elements that could rapidly change the pacing. All 80 challenges feel oddly similar with only small factors breaking up the repetition. There are some neat moments that include some modifiers in the gameplay such as the controls being reversed but these happen far and few in between to break up the familiarity.
Aside from this, the fixed camera can also be a nightmare to work with as the view for some paths can be blocked or obscured allowing a fatal mistake to take place.
There is also a co-op mode which is great fun if you liked the campaign. It’s all about teamwork, again with the addition of a yellow and green cube to make a happy and death defining foursome. While the co-op mode is a nice addition, I hoped there would be some form of competitive aspect here to break up the teamwork nature. Also, there is very little in unlocks and rewards, holding back any real replay value.
Death Squared is a neat, charming puzzle game that can definitely be expanded upon in a sequel or add-on content. The vast list of challenges will last a while for most gamers and the co-op mode is enjoyable for two friends to play. But the lack of different game modes and the rather repetitive nature of the campaign may not bring many players back for a second visit after completion. Yet still, there’s cubes, puzzles and plenty of ka-booms to enjoy so it’s worth checking out.
A Playstation 4 Review Key for Death Squared was provided by SMG Studio for the Purpose of this Review.