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Squares review for PS Vita

Platform: PS Vita
Publisher: LEAP Game Studios
Developer: LEAP Game Studios
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No
ESRB: E

At first glance, Squares looks a lot like loads of other puzzle games that have come to exist in this mobile gaming era. A stylish design, a minimalist interface, a straightforward mechanic: while the specifics may set it apart from the likes of Dots or Spelltower or Threes or any of the countless other puzzle games you can find on your Android or iDevice, from an aesthetic perspective it doesn't look like it should be all that different.

Appearances, however, can be deceiving, and it becomes apparent that's the case with Squares from the moment you start actually playing it. Yes, it looks like those games, but the reality is much more…complex, to use the vaguest term possible.

squares-screenshot-01

For one thing, Squares is governed by a clock. And not just a Dots-esque, 60-second timer sitting on the periphery, either. Levels in Squares last just a few seconds whether you beat them or not — and, considering how hard the levels are, it's more likely to be the "not" side of that equation. The clock here is unrelenting, constantly zipping down along the top of the screen and refusing to even allow for the slightest bit of hesitation, let alone a mistake.

Which is the other thing that separates Squares out from most puzzle games: there's no margin for error at any point in time. If you screw up, you die. There's no pausing for a second to plan out your course of action here; you have to react instantly, or go back and start the level over again. In this respect, Squares probably has more in common with twitchy platformers like 1001 Spikes or Cloudberry Kingdom than it does a puzzle game.

squares-screenshot-2

Even in those cases, however, you get time to think, and Squares really, really doesn't want you to do that. Each level is built around the 3-star ratings you find in games like Angry Birds, but you have to be absurdly fast to get three stars in any given level. And it's not like the game features some gradually sloping difficulty curve, either, in which you're allowed to slowly learn the ropes as it gets more and more difficult. Nope, here it's more like a difficult cliff, in which the game goes from holding your hand through the first level tutorial to tossing you into the abyss in the second.

And truthfully, that really soured me on Squares. I mean, I don't expect to be perfect at a game right off the bat, but I do like feeling some sense of accomplishment in the early levels that will fuel me to keep on going as the game gets harder and harder. That's just not present here. From the moment the second level zips by, Squares makes it clear that you'd better have some insane reflexes right off the bat, or not bother playing. I'll take the latter — no matter how nice the game's aesthetics might be.

Grade: C