Death Squared Review – The Left/Right Dilemma
We, as critics, face a very difficult challenge: to score games as unbiasedly as possible, and to have the ultimate opinion that essentially becomes insurmountable. Alas, when we make our opinion public, and we (as an online publication) hit that “publish” button, we can’t retract on whatever our opinion is. When we publish a review, whatever score we award a game stays. The review is online and it’s final. Therefore, we have to find it within ourselves to cover all our bases when we critique.
Death Squared Review
But that’s enough of the sympathy card for us critics. Believe it or not, I tried to find a way to make this review as interesting as possible. Which is why I asked myself as I was playing Death Squared, “does this game add any new gravitas that we hadn’t seen before?” I wanted to approach Death Squared without any prejudices on the puzzle genre as a whole. That being said, I also wondered “does this game live up to the hype that developer SMG Studio built around the short trailer (which you can view below) showcasing gamers of all kind having an absolute blast with this game?” In short, yes, Death Squared lives up to some of this, but not all.
Death Squared is essentially the answer to the Souls series in terms of difficulty for puzzle games. Strictly speaking, it’s a no-nonsense diversion that certainly adds its fair share of fun, as well as some much-needed difficulty to the puzzle videogame library. Some of the puzzles included in Death Squared will make you want to split your controller in half, whereas others will genuinely challenge to move your pieces from a 5th dimension perspective. All in the name of finding the piece that will solve the riddle. After all, as human beings, we are competitive in nature and we appreciate a good challenge. Well, for the most part. I can’t speak on everybody’s behalf, but to me, that was the best part of Death Squared: trying to figure out the answer to the puzzles. Some of them can be very inventive, and some can be preposterously frustrating. However, is the difficulty in this game warranted or not?
To find the answer, I needed to investigate further. According to the consensus, Death Squared is a game that is best played in co-op. And that’s the rather unfortunate part for me. I had to play a good portion of this game by myself, and I believe that’s where I missed part of its charm, as a result. This is all related to the controls too. Some of the puzzles are designed precisely with the left/right brain paradigm in mind; meaning that you have your block characters that you move independently from each other. Now, you must make sure that you don’t mess up your grip on each block, as the controls will shift from one hand to the other. In other words, you control the blue block with the right hand, and the red one with the left. At least that’s how it’s supposed to be. But it’s not always like this. Oftentimes, the controls will shift to the opposite hand via the placement of the blocks on the level’s surface. This will lead to many untimely ends for your blocks that cause Death Squared to live up to its title. I’m sure that these deaths are supposed to be fun, but I found them discouraging after ten tiring minutes. I had a feeling that the answer to my pressing issue lied in the co-op aspect of the game.
I played a few puzzles with my sister, and my results did improve. There were 80 of these puzzles to solve in the game’s “story” mode. Additionally, the game has a party mode with 40 levels to hack away at. Therein lies another problem with this puzzler though: if you lack any sort of cooperation, the game will wear out its welcome faster than an 80s Tetris arcade machine. The puzzles in Death Squared are meant to be played cooperatively. If you lack a partner by any means, good luck to you. These riddles will keep you guessing forever, and just when you think you’ve nailed the answer, it only takes a small rub on the Nintendo Switch joy-cons for your sand castle to crumble. That brings me to another problem: I found the controls for Death Squared to be quite sensitive. I wouldn’t say hyper sensitive, but they sure were close enough to this. A light tap on the joy-cons towards the wrong direction and I was Death Squared. Add that on top of the left/right brain dilemma and you can see how I was disheartened after trying to solve some of these puzzles by myself. Now, I will reiterate; having played the Nintendo Switch version, I am oblivious as to how sensitive the controls are on the PS4, Xbox One and PC versions.
I will stop my soapbox right here as I actually enjoyed Death Squared. I feel like I got my time’s worth out of the seven hours I invested in it. Moreover, some of the puzzles are super fun to crack and they’re a treat in themselves. Developer SMG Studio has created a puzzle game that can only be compared to From Software’s Souls Series in terms of difficulty. And Death Squared actually keeps track of many deaths you have on the upper right-hand corner. Moreover, there is a sense of reward you get from completing some of the more difficult puzzles. So you have to keep cracking away. Just make sure you don’t crack your brains out while figuring some of them out. Remorselessly difficult, yet enjoyably challenging, Death Squared is worth your time. It’s a game that is best played at parties with a bunch of drunk people. That will most certainly help.
As an addendum, SMG Studio has announced continued support for this game and are planning to release more puzzles to keep players busy for free. Now, how many developers and publishers have the courtesy of making that offer these days?