Work together or die together; it’s the crux of many multiplayer games, but it carries a particular weight with Death Squared. Players must guide their coloured cubes around stages towards a goal, where traps and other hindrances will appear as a result of their movements. Don’t let it its looks deceive you, because underneath is a game entrenched with all the satisfaction and frustration you’d expect to either galvanise a team, or tear apart fragile alliances.
Developer SMG Studios could be on to something special here, so at this year’s PAX Aus 2016 we caught up with Studio Head of the team behind Death Squared, Ashley Ringrose, to chat about the game.
Hayden Waugh: Good morning, Ashley. The name Death Squared implies that there may be shooting mechanics at play. Was this ever a part of the original plans for the game?
Ashley Ringrose: No, not at all. It was always meant to be a game that told you: “Hey, because of your actions, you ended up killing your co-op partner!”. So, definitely no shooting.
HW: Death Squared was in the Indie Showcase at PAX Aus 2015, so what’s changed since then?
AR: Firstly, there’s been a complete graphics overhaul – before it was very rudimentary. We’ve also got heaps of new levels – I think we only had 12 last year; in its current state, Death Squared has over 100 levels and 30 of these will shown throughout this year’s show.
There’s new lighting effects, we have a build rating on Xbox One and an achievement list, a few special four-player levels to show off. So, yeah, a big overhaul.
HW: Do you think local multiplayer is a dying art?
AR: No, I just think there’s a lot of competitive games where you compete against someone and beat them; there aren’t enough co-operative couch games, which this is. For instance, when I play with my wife, I either have to let her win or it’s a fairly convincing victory for me – and that’s not fun.
Death Squared isn’t a button-masher and is great for people of all ages. If you can move the switch up, down, left and right, it’s the game for you. Sometimes, all gamers want to do is help each other rather than fight each other.
HW: How did you go about deciding what Death Squared would actually look like?
AR: Part of it was the simple necessity of having simple graphics to polish the rest of the game to a high standard. Also, we wanted the levels themselves to eventually get quite complex and be really readable at the same time, with the brightness of the coloured blocks allowing for a straightforward visual cue. We were after something that appealed to both young and old as well.
HW: And what release window are you looking at for Death Squared?
AR: We’re looking at Q1, 2017 – hopefully just in time for Valentine’s day.
HW: *laughs* Are you sure that’s wise? Releasing it near Valentine’s Day? Break a few hearts, no doubt?
AR: Yeah, I hope so! That would be great. We’ll set up a discount on any marriage counselling that may occur from the game. But it is a ‘relationship test’ game where working together is key. I like to think of it as putting together IKEA furniture without the instructions – ever had to do that? It’s hard! You either work as a SWAT team and it’s beautiful or you do it over three nights and you argue every night!
Death Squared will be coming to PC and Xbox One. No additional platforms have been announced so far, but you can keep track of any future developments by checking out their official website for any updates or following them on Twitter @smgstudio.