Great music, quirky, awesome animations and art, 4 player co-op and aliens. What more do you need? Well, okay, we agree. There are some other elements that make or break a game, and we’ll take a look into those elements with Square Off and let you know what we thought.
Story: Earth has been under attack for ages, and we’re running short on resources. So, a mad scientist decides to take a bit of Alien DNA and implant it in the nucleus of the cell (which came from the scientists own brain.) Thus producing a 4-player squadron of Square Avengers set to save earth from the alien-spawning space ships and other threats using various firepower and, uh, square power. Huey Lewis and the News would be so happy right now.
Off to the gameplay, we noticed that the Square Avengers somehow defy gravity, and move about the screen vertically and horizontally similar to a side-scrolling top-down shooter. As in, you can move anywhere on the screen, and shoot in any direction, only the view is from the side. I had issues with head-butting enemies by flying into them, and dying often. But, unlike other alien games, you have a health bar that allows you to take a bit of damage before losing a life.
The controls are a little off to me. Instead of like a standard dual stick shooter, you move with the left stick, aim with the right, and fire separately. Maybe I’m just spoiled on games like Geometry Wars, but it feels a bit odd - and is partially why I was constantly running into enemies the first few times I played.
Co-op in Square Off is particularly helpful and an enjoyable experience, even when your co-op buddy is of the more casual persuasion. Not only does co-op give the enemy aliens, which swarm your Square Avenger, additional targets to split them up - but they are easier to defeat when you and a buddy (or, buddies) attack from multiple angles with different weapons. You can also accidentally shoot your buddies with no consequence to their health bar (except with bombs, those hurt everyone), but you can’t fly through one-another. So, beware of how you use space.
Enemy bosses also have weak spots, so having one player act as bait to lure the boss to a vulnerable position for you to fire at is a great strategy to use. Don’t worry, all players can still do loads of damage to the boss, it just helps to hit its vulnerable spot.
I have to admit, the challenge was there - and I found myself wanting to get to the next stage, wanting to play that boss that had beaten us 10 times in a row, even after my co-op buddy was ready to go to bed. Square Off was a grand time, and I look forward to playing more of it with my online co-op friends.
This would definitely fall into the new category of hardcore casual games, complete with colorful characters, addictive gameplay, and excessive gore. Square Off is available on the Xbox Indie channel for a mere $3 (240).
Oh, and for the record, I named my Square Avenger “Leon” (it was the Red one).
The Co-op Experience: Play as one of 4 Square Avengers to protect Earth from an invading force of not-so-nice Aliens. Smooth gameplay in the Dual-stick-shooter style with addictive challenge makes for a good time to be had by many, even with varying skill levels.
Co-Op Score: 4.5 out of 5
General Score: 4 out of 5
*Review based on local co-op gameplay on a shared screen.
The Co-Op Experience:
Co-Optimus game reviews focus on the cooperative experience of a game, our final score graphic represents this experience along with an average score for the game overall. For an explanation of our scores please check our Review Score Explanation Guide.