26/07/2017

☆ Review: Death Squared "The Cubes Will Die!" ☆

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Death Squared - Nintendo Switch
Death Squared is not an exclusive Switch title, having already been released for PC and its more powerful console rivals earlier this year.


Yet much like the Switch launch title SnipperClips, in an ideal world, it would be the type of game that Nintendo 's portable/home console hybrid system is renowned for by the end of its lifespan.


Death Squared functions as both a single, or multiplayer game that is simple enough so that two people can pick up and share the experience on a single controller split up into two separate Joy Cons.  At the same time, it carries sufficient depth and a broad enough number of campaigns to get lost in for a few hours or a quick play through, at least until your brain needs some respite in the form of Zelda or Mario Kart.


The title may be simple but is also well polished. The player controls a number of colourful remote control robot cubes that are supposed to represent a new type of AI in development.


The humour stems from a form of reactive commentary where the developer of the AI and his machine assistant comment on the reactions and intelligence of the robots, or deride their lame brained stupidity if the player continues to fail at the same puzzle.  In time, you come to enjoy trying to impress the voice of your developer as you stumble through 80  puzzles that make up the story mode.  It is also relatively easy to mute on the Switch.
It is a game very much about coordination. In single player, it is how your brain is able to coordinate your thumbs to control two different cubes at the same time, ensuring one robot continues to shield the other from an explosive laser death in order to reach the goal at the same time.  Alternatively, enlisting other players requires solid communication and sufficient patience for the endless mistakes that can result from failing to react and move onto a shifting platform at just the right point as your partner makes their move.


You also literally get to piggyback on the other character, which is a mechanic simply not used in enough co-op games - perhaps the next Halo should consider it.


Stick it on the Switch 's snazzy portable screen and it works as perfectly over a beer in the Garden, as it does on the couch.



In short, you are required to place two robotics cubes - one blue and one red - onto their respective circular points on 3D isometric maps.  Each new mission creates labyrinths and traps for you to learn and experiment in order to reach the goal, with failure in the game not feeling cheap, even if it is likely to lead a player to throw a joy con in pure frustration.  The in-game physics means failure is usually from a lapse in judgement rather than poor controls and the story mode can prove a surprising strategy heavy trip.  


The individual puzzles, which introduce new traps and puzzles that often feel like mini-games, can occasionally be blazed through in one to two attempts, while other levels can last up to ten minutes or so as you play around with the mechanics and solve the puzzle.  


Launching at around $15 (£11.50) on the Nintendo e-store, the price is just right for a title that you can pick up and play for the odd hour or two, or in short bursts of frustrating/rewarding puzzling.  It is also a nice showcase of the Switch's potential to bridge casual mobile titles with more in-depth couch co-op.


with a couple of hours into multiplayer, the death count gauge was rising to about 250 - which almost of a badge of honour amidst the frustration of failing to coordinate with another human.   Although only half way through the story mode puzzles at the time of review, the ability to play alone or with another human player - a godsend when you might otherwise throw the controller down in temporary defeat - gives the title some lifespan.


The party mode is also a pleasant bonus for players which, thanks to the Switch's joy cons, can be played between two and four players.  However, the complexities of controlling four coloured cubes simultaneously without hindering your friends can feel like an expansion of the story mode than a rival to Mario Kart 8s battle mode.



Summary:
If in a group that has some time to spare and fairly strong patience for each other, there is a solid and simple, yet engaging puzzler here.  It is not as innovative and showy as Snipper Clips in terms of an 'I bet you have never seen this before' way to show off the Switch.  Yet it is a satisfying well-priced excuse to play up the portable side of the Switch and share a Joycon with someone.


The frustration of failing to coordinate your two thumbs, or work in perfect unison with a friend is what creates the charm of the game, which frustrating in failure, but hugely satisfying in victory - a puzzle game can't deliver much more.  


Yet this may make the title not accessible or of interest to everyone who wants a more showy experience to show off the title in the vain of Wii bowling or Mario Kart 8.

Game Link: Death Squared
Dev Link: SMG

Review By Neil Merrett


"STAY FROSTY!"