MEGATech Reviews: Death Squared (Nintendo Switch)
This deceptively simple puzzle game clearly borrows much of its inspiration from Portal and that's a very good thing. As a multiplayer party game, it's even better.
  • Immediately accessible yet suitably challenging
  • Filled with personality and spunk
  • Simple yet appealing visual style
  • Can get excruciatingly difficult
  • Lack of graphical diversity
  • No available "hint" dynamic
8Overall Score

It’s been about two months since I got the Nintendo Switch for Father’s Day and I’ve been actively on the hunt for some fun games to play. Many friends have told me to get Zelda, telling me it’s a masterpiece, but I’ve never been one for RPGs and I simply have the time to devote to such a quest. I just want a couple quick hits of distraction every now and then. And Death Squared could be one of those hidden gems for precisely that purpose.

Prepare for Death Squared

Offered through the eShop as a digital download, Death Squared for the Nintendo Switch can also be found on some other platforms like the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC (via Steam). The game across all these devices is fundamentally the same, of course, but the specific dynamics of the Switch’s versatility could make the Nintendo-directed iteration the most accessible and the most fun.

The basic premise behind this deceptively simple puzzle game is that you get to control a couple of AI blocks (four in the case of Party Mode) and the goal is to move them over their color-coordinated circular bases. Each block is controlled by one of the two analog sticks on the Switch. The red block needs to make it to the red circle and the blue block needs to make it to the blue circle. Even though the stages look like they are built on a grid, the blocks can move freely; they don’t have to “jump” from spot to spot.

Pressing any of the four face buttons (ABXY) or the four d-pad buttons makes the blocks do different things, like illuminating the light on top or making them lean a certain way, but these don’t seem to affect the actual gameplay in any way.

Just Moving a Couple Blocks

They throw some wrenches into the mix, of course, resulting in stages that are progressively more complex and progressively more difficult. For instance, when you move the blue block around, it might also simultaneously move a transparent blue cube around in another part of the stage, pushing your red block off the edge to its death.

The good news is that you never run out of lives in this game, though they do keep track of how many times each block plummeted to its doom. As stages get more advanced, a series of spikes in the ground might pop up when you successfully get the red block to its red circle, for instance, piercing and killing your blue cube. You’ll also find square activation switches that might lower or raise platforms or otherwise change the layout of the stage.

As 50 Cent so eloquently told us many moons ago, you’re going to get rich or die trying. And there is a lot of dying. It’s so deceptively simple as a concept, as all great puzzle games should be. But it’s also so frustrating in a fun sort of way.

Now, you could totally play this game on your own, as you may be apt to do in Story Mode. Alternatively, you can hand a Joy-con over a friend and you can control the cubes independently. Get into Party Mode and things get much crazier as you now have four different color cubes to contend with.

It’s best if you have extra Joy-cons to hand out to your other three friends, in the case. If you only have the two, holding the respective ZL or ZR triggers while moving the corresponding analog stick allows you to control the green and yellow cube.

The Charming Personality

It’s very clear that the developers of Death Squared were heavily inspired and influenced by Portal. The cubes you’re moving around the stage are robots and you work at some high tech company that doesn’t seem all that dissimilar from Aperture Science. As this testing technician, you interact with some sort of AI entity who is eerily similar to GLaDOS, though seemingly not nearly as evil.

This sense of charm extends to the overall visual style of the game as well. While certainly not especially complex, it is bright and purposeful. It is rather unfortunate, though, that there is very little in terms of graphical variation. The background in every stage looks the same. The stage elements themselves basically look the same. Yes, I realize the focus is on the puzzle itself, but it would have been nice if there were some slight variations every now and then.

MEGATechie Switch Supreme or MEGATechie Nintendon’t Buy This?

Generally speaking, I’ve been spending most of my time on the Switch playing Ultra Street Fighter II and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, along with some of the classic Neo Geo fighting games. The library is growing and it’s nice to see newer IPs like Death Squared make that leap.

Puzzle games like this are distinctly different from classics like Tetris and Dr. Mario, because the action here is not at all frantic. This is not twitch gaming with a reliance on quick reflexes. It’s more about strategy, forethought, and trial and error, like those old sliding escape block games. But now, there’s a great cooperative element thrown in.

Death Switch is available now for $14.99 through the Nintendo Switch eShop. It feels a little on the pricier side (I think $9.99 would have been more appropriate), but it’s a good option if you’re looking for a unique puzzler to play with friends.

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