Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Death Squared (NS, PS4, XB1, PC) Review

SuperPhillip Central's second review of the month takes us to a recent Nintendo Switch release, the version of the game this review of mine is based off of. It's SMG Studios' Death Squared. Let's read if this game plays by the rules: fair and squared!

It's hip to be squared.


Huey Lewis may have sang it in the '80s, but SMG Studios is now saying it with its newest game. Well, technically I am saying that with my tagline, but let's not split hairs here. Death Squared contains plenty of puzzle-based, trap-filled levels for any player or group of players (hey, easy local player on Nintendo Switch!) to sit down and enjoy. You may not love it to death, but you will get your money's worth.

Death Squared's story mode has you, as a technician for a high tech conglomerate named David, controlling two AI cubes through 80 puzzle and trap-filled levels, each becoming progressively more difficult. The left stick controls one box while the right stick controls its pal. (Or, better yet, you can have two players work together, one controlling one box and the other controlling the other. Thank you, Nintendo Joycon controllers!) These red and blue boxes must not only get to their respective goals, but they also need to work together to assist each other through the oftentimes challenging levels.

Tricks and traps await in each level, whether it's red and blue color-coded lasers that will destroy a box that isn't its color, while allowing a similarly colored box to serve as a shield and/or pass through it. Then, there are transparent cubes that serve of platforms, but only the box of the opposite color, whether red or blue, can cross them. I can't forget the various buttons that can do a host of things such as moving platforms, changing the range of a laser, or even trolling players by summoning a bed of instant death spikes from the field of play.

These buttons will do a number of actions depending on the level. You won't know until you step on one~!
Speedy play isn't recommended for the most part, as more strategic planning, careful and thoughtful movement provide greater success rather than rushing into things, constantly having your test subjects become destroyed due to impatience. Calculated movement and deep thinking are your best friends with Death Squared. This makes it all the more rewarding when you finally complete a level after failing for the umpteenth time. Even though you will have to die plenty of times to get a feel of how certain levels' various mechanics, buttons, and doodads do, Death Squared immediately brings you back to the action and reloads the level without any hint of a loading screen.

Death in Death Squared is as inevitable as the sun setting in the evening.
However, sometimes failing a level isn't entirely on you. You see, the camera is static in Death Squared, which has a positive and a negative to it. On the positive side, you need not worry about adjusting the camera to get an alternate glimpse at a level. There's no need for such a thing. However, on the negative end of the spectrum, sometimes the camera is leveled or placed at an awkward angle. It makes movement occasionally unwieldy, especially since Death Squared doesn't featured grid-based movement. It's all too easy to accidentally fall off the edge of levels, and when that happens near the end of a longer level, it can be a bit aggravating to say the least.

What is far from aggravating, however, is the banter between David and his AI companion on his journey to beat boredom, Iris. Apparently, David's dialogue wasn't just a part of some script. Instead, the voice actor behind many of Death Squared's lines improvised and ad libbed a good deal of the humor. The conversations between David and Iris are comedic gold, offering plenty misunderstandings between human colloquialisms from David and from Iris' own AI interpretation of his words' actual intent and meaning.

Outside of Death Squared's story mode, there are two other modes consisting of Party, bringing the count of robotic blocks up from two to four, allowing one players to hit buttons to switch between each box or to be played with 2-4 players. Then, there is the last mode, Vault, which basically a collection of the hardest levels in the game, and as the developer says, "the ones that were too hard for the story mode". So, if that doesn't get your brain and thumbs bursting, nothing will. Thus, it's a sizable display of content as a whole for Death Squared.

More cubes obviously mean more fun! Thankfully, this is very much true.
Death Squared is the type of game that can be occasionally vexing, failing levels multiple times, sometimes through no true fault of your own thanks to the once in a while bad camera angles of some levels. However, for every annoyance comes a reprieve, whether it's the enjoyable dialogue showcasing great humor and wit between David and Iris, the quick recovery from deaths, the wonder of what challenges await for you by the designers of upcoming levels, and more. It's indeed hip to be squared, and in SMG Studios' game, death most certainly does not take a holiday.

[SPC Says: B]

Review code provided by SMG Studios.

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