I’m always on the lookout for a good couch co-op game, so I try to review them whenever I get a chance. I had heard a few things about Death Squared going into the review, as it’s an early Switch game, but I didn’t get the best idea of what it really involves until I played it. It’s fun, frustrating, and dependent on good communication between players and spectators. As long as you’re willing to focus on it, though, it makes for an interesting party game.
Now, I say “party,” but more than anything else, Death Squared is a puzzle game. There are modes supporting two or four local players; as communication is key, there’s no online mode. That’s already a plus in my book. It’s also nice that, since the joystick is the only control you need, two players can use the Pro Controller. It also means you can play the two player mode yourself, or the four player mode with three people, though controlling two characters makes things a lot more difficult. Each player controls a colored cube, and the goal is to get all of the cubes on the same colored circles. In your way are plenty of obstacles, some of which respond differently to different colors. For example, players can travel through clear blocks of their color, while clear blocks of other colors remain solid.
Especially in the four player “Party Mode,” things get difficult quickly. Every time someone dies, be it from spikes or falling off the stage, the entire stage resets. This can be infuriating, especially as it’s sometimes easiest to solve the puzzles by trial and error. Most of the buttons and switches that control obstacles aren’t entirely clear in their functionality; you have to try them first. And while the game doesn’t introduce everything at once, the Party Mode does feel like it throws you in head first. The two player Story Mode, a misnomer given the lack of plot, is a bit better at introducing things slowly. Either way, the mechanics are all simple and straightforward, so both modes are pretty accessible. You just have to be dedicated to solving the puzzles.
As my friends and I played the game, we did notice one problem with the presentation: it can be hard to judge depth. This would have made for a good 3DS game, in fact. As the platforms all look pretty much the same, it can be difficult to judge exactly where things are. Again, you have to restart the level if anyone falls off the stage, so this really gets to be a pain. Differentiating the platforms a bit would be helpful; hopefully they will update that.
Despite the issues, Death Squared makes for a great co-op game. It’s not a traditional party game, as it requires serious concentration and gets pretty difficult. This is especially true for the Party Mode, which could be a bit more welcoming. But as long as you’re prepared for that, and ready to cooperate, it’s a very rewarding experience. Few things feel better than solving a tough puzzle with friends. Just make sure to watch your step along the way.
This review is based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.
Try to skip the "death" part
Gameplay - 7/10
Challenge - 8/10
Design - 8/10
+ Clever puzzles
+ Local multiplayer
– Hard to tell depth
– Dying is a pain