Remember Portal? Who doesn’t remember the cake, right? Imagine if that diamond in the gaming rough had been more about the turrets and the need to solve puzzles with them, because we all loved the turrets and their creepy voices … or is that just me? Either way, SMG Studio has a little puzzle game that might interest you.

Death Squared is all about solving increasingly complex puzzles by moving box shaped robots around in the right order. It sounds relatively easy enough, until you discover the traps that lay in wait upon your failure that is. The key is cooperation, whether that’s in your own minds eye between the various robots, or with up to four players that each guide a separate coloured drone. Work together and you’ll breeze through it, but one wrong move and it’s all over bar the shouting.

The Sydney studio originally came up with the idea back in 2015, during the 48 hour Global Game Jam. The theme then was ‘what do we do next?’, and it’s an apt description of Death Squared’s puzzle mechanics. You’ll find yourself scratching your head and experimenting considerably, only to get laughingly frustrated when you see the solution but can’t quite make it, either because your teammate isn’t working with you or your twitch controls are failing you.

I’ve had a few runs with Death Squared, and I can attest to its charming frustrations. I get a kick out of solving a puzzle, there’s that inner excitement when it comes to you and it all clicks into place, but here there’s also plenty of opportunities for everything to go horribly and entertainingly wrong. It’s not often I can say I laughed my way through a puzzle, normally I’d be throwing my brain into a fit trying to work it out.

Of the puzzles I’ve had a chance to go hands on with, the complexity level tended to be just at the right level. The solution eventually came together through trial and error, though on the floor of RTX Sydney with a second player, it was at times a tad difficult to judge our timing and plan our moves through all the noise of the convention hall. Still, we powered through the demo puzzles and came out both entertained and intrigued by what else lay in wait in the full release. Controlling the bots was simple enough, you’ll rarely use anything else other than the control stick, so anyone can pick up and play.

It definitely helps to have a friend or more around. You can complete the main campaign solo if you’re keen (the mode is amusingly called ‘Lonely Co-Op’), and I’ll certainly try, but the concept works best when you have someone to work off of. Those little tweeks and turns that can cause success or failure are best shared, plus having another brain to leach off of to solve the puzzles can help too. There’s the promise of even more difficult puzzles in the ‘Vault’, a series of challenges deemed too hard for the main game that will continually provide new content after launch. I can’t wait to see how much hair I lose over those!’

As brief as my time with it may have been, I’m all ready to take on the full experience of Death Squared. Its vibrant nature and sense of humour helps it to stand out from the crowd, and its already got a bit of a following ahead of its launch. I can only imagine how devilish it might get later in life, throwing my brain into a twisted hissy fit. Hopefully I can drag a few friends into hell with me…

Death Squared hits PS4, Xbox One and PC this week … today, in fact, if you’re reading this on the 14th of March. As for the Portal reference, there’s some little hints to that influence through the cubes themselves and the voice over of ‘David’, who runs the simulation. Whether the later puzzles brings further references or a few twists and turns remains to be seen, but I’m easily hooked. Puzzle games will always have a place in my little gaming heart, but Death Squared promises to up the ante and provide some laughter along the way.

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