Death Squared is a funny game. A two-player puzzler starring cute cuboid robots, pushing one another off ledges is always funny. Stepping on a button at just the right time to kill your partner with a sudden laser beam never gets old, even when you do it again and again.
Unfortunately, it isn’t quite as funny with its script. With a Portal-esque tone, levels are accompanied by a bored office worker chattering to his AI counterpart while he judges the players’ performance. Trite jokes about the tedium of office life and the incompetence of the narrator rarely rise above a forgettable American sitcom that might be on Channel 4 during the day.
Here and there, gags do shine through. The ratings awarded to each player after levels can be hilariously judgemental, particularly when one player has died considerably more times than the other. Little touches, like optional paint jobs and animations, add a surprising amount of character to the robotic stars.
Primarily, the game’s humour and appeal comes from the mechanics. The grid-based levels are perfectly paced and judged to provide a constant loop of frustration, arguments, eureka moments and ultimate satisfaction.
Each stage consists of different coloured robots who must reach their colour-coded buttons. This can be as simple as one player pushing a block out of another player’s way or as complicated as multiple laser beams being blocked by one player while moving in unison with another.
New concepts are introduced with a grace and touch that stops things feeling overwhelming but never leaves them feeling dull. One level will reveal the concept of colour coded lasers, then the very next will give you a brand new twist on the idea. Working with a partner to not only puzzle out the solution, but also to execute it, provides that classic mix of satisfying teamwork and infuriating miscommunication.
When the answers are clear, levels can be completed in a matter of seconds. Deaths result in an almost instant restart. What all this means is that no matter how many times a level goes wrong, it never has long enough to properly set teeth to grinding. Once part of the puzzle is figured out, repeating those steps becomes easy and the brain can concentrate on the final parts.
Death Squared is one of those games which, although it exists elsewhere, feels tailor made for the Switch. The game is heavily co-op focused, with no real singleplayer content other than trying to control multiple robots simultaneously. The built in dual controllers of the Switch are ideal for the simple movement and the clear, brightly coloured visuals suit the tabletop mode well.
There is a wealth of levels to work through, with a party mode accommodating larger groups of players and a set of trickier bonus levels to reward those who have finished the fun but throwaway story and want a little more.
Ultimately, there’s nothing about this game to stop me recommending it. The puzzle design is tight, the experience is fun and although the writing isn’t perfect, it never grates or gets in the way of a good time. The only question is whether you have a boyfriend, sister, pharmaceutically enhanced chimpanzee or ninjutsu duplicate with whom to sit down and play with. If the answer is yes, this game is a well-deserved addition to the pantheon of quirky co-op hits on the Switch. If the answer is no, Death Squared will only make you feel like more of a lonely square.
By Luke Summerhayes