Puzzle games are almost always a load of fun. Even when done wrong, it can be amusing to break them and figure out cheating ways to win. When done right and smartly, they can be challenging, rewarding, and yes, also fun. Death Squared falls more in the latter category, but not without a few bumps.
The story isn't all that important, because this is really about working together/by yourself to solve puzzles, but it does explain a few things. The game takes place underneath a big company that is improving teamwork between different AIs. There is Red and Blue (and others), and keeping tally of the testing (AKA us playing) is Iris and Dave – a robot and an engineer. Knowing that, the rest is a 3D puzzle beater. Not a bad story, and more than most puzzles give us. Dave and Iris get REALLY annoying sometime, but for the purposes of story, not bad.
On Steam the controls weren't half bad. When you move around your little bots on the screen they aren't going from being fully in one cube to the next. You can move them all over the place, and the mouse helps cut those corners nicely. Nothing too complicated since most of it is simply moving each bot around, but considering that some puzzle games require a full keyboard of hotkeys and reflex memory, it's simple and works nicely. On my laptop, it worked fine.
It's not that difficult to explain the graphics. It's not overly colorful, but has enough to look both futuristic, clean and dangerous. The bland whites and grays help contract the colors in the block fields nicely. It's also 3D, and it never looks 2D for even a second. For a puzzle game, that isn't always the case. But Death Squared has a good balance on graphics. There's nothing to fault them on here.
The game works by moving bots around. One may move invisible cubes, some can go around and produce spikes that can kill other bots, elevators, block lasers and a variety of other things to either help or hinder others. It really does involve teamwork, or at least strategy to save the bots and pass the test. At times it can be a little sticky. Some moves you do can kill other bots even though you've trialed and errored it. One time my bot wasn't even near some spikes when it died because another bot activated them. After redoing the level, I found no reason for this to be the case. It might have been a fluke or glitch, and it was a one-time thing, but still it happened. Altogether, it's fine and can be quite cerebral. It's fun and frustrating – some puzzles require a lot of thought and I did bang my laptop at least twice while playing.
The sound of the game was good. The background music is this pleasant music that gets a little science-y but generally stays on point. It loops, but you won't notice it because it's different and good. Sound is minimal – thunks of blocks, moving, anything moving on the cube map. Nothing over the top and nothing missed. However, a huge warning about Dave and Iris. They have constant banner around the levels and it is extremely annoying. Most puzzle games have silence to allow you to concentrate and maybe to think a bit, but not so here. I get that the feeling is that they're watching you and commentating, but it's not MST3K type of riffing, nor is it DVD commentary insightful. It's just two people talking a few sentences back and forth. It detracted from the game experience for me, but I guess results may vary.
Death Squared also ran well. No lag issues to speak of. Loading times could be a smidge long in points, and sometimes graphics had a split second delay of what happened. Plus I mentioned the spike issue earlier. But even with that there's no major problems in this department.
Death Squared is a good, unique puzzle game. There's no theme to it except being vaguely science-y and futuristic, and there is no big distraction (besides Dave and Iris). It's a challenging, well-thought out puzzle game. Unique games are hard to come by, especially in a crowded field like puzzle games, but Death Squared manages to do it. There's something different here, something more purer and back to basics. It's a great game, addicting and is a lot of fun. I enjoyed it, and I think you will too. If you're looking for something a little smarter when it comes to games, Death Squared fits the bill.
A copy of this game was provided for the purpose of review.