Death Squared – SMG Studio – Early 2017
Australia-based SMG Studio was showing Death Squared at PAX this year, and I had the opportunity to check it out on the show floor. At first glance, the simple, brightly colored cubes might make you think the game is for kids. Rest assured, it will test the wits and patience of young and old alike, with an approach to puzzles comparable only to GLaDOS or the Saw movies. You’re just a brightly-colored cube, so the constant destruction from every puzzle’s traps doesn’t have quite the same effect, but the fear is still there. Death Squared is 2-or-4 players, requiring excellent communication above everything.
I played around six 2-player puzzles with a random passerby at the show, and it was an impressive display of design ingenuity. Every player action can have an unexpected reaction from the puzzle itself, including everything from impaling your friend with floor spikes or pushing them off the map and into the void. The puzzles range from incredibly simple to seemingly impossible, though I never found myself feeling frustrated. The thing I think Death Squared does best, though, is make death inevitable. The rules of each map are secret until you discover them through trial and error. Most of the errors result in death.
The 2-player experience is almost laid back by comparison to the 4-player mode. Coordinating two players for the more difficult puzzles is already a challenge, so trying to coordinate four is a nightmare. It gets easier after a few levels, once everybody’s on the same page, but even then, the complexity of solving the 4-person puzzles ramps up incredibly quickly by comparison.