Roughly every two weeks, a game lands on the Xbox Store with a £0.79 price tag and no achievements to speak of. It’s the equivalent of putting a reduced-price chocolate bar at the checkout: it’s there as an impulse purchase, and it must work as people keep launching the things. The catch is a lack of achievements, as well as a consistent habit of being duff.
Squares – Brain Game 2 bucks the trend. We don’t want to go overboard, as it is all relative – this is simply ‘good for the price’. But it doesn’t over-reach. It delivers a concise game that is enjoyable while it lasts.
For as long as there have been video games, there have been titles like Squares – Brain Game 2. This is a sliding puzzle game, in the sense that you tap a direction and your character slides until it hits an obstacle. Then you tap another cardinal direction, hitting another wall, all in the aim of reaching some kind of goal: in this case a flashing square.
It’s a brand of game that just tends to work, and it certainly suits a 79p game that aims to be a distraction for a morning. The flip is that we’ve all played games like it, so there’s a risk that it will create a sense of extreme deja vu.
Squares – Brain Game 2 just about swerves a feeling of intense familiarity by handing you more than one character to control: in this case, multiple coloured blocks. The mission is to slide these blocks into their corresponding flashing goals, and that’s made more complicated by them getting in the way of each other, or them using each other as makeshift walls in an effort to reach an otherwise unreachable goal.
It’s enough to add a modicum of difference to proceedings. The level design is clever enough to keep things tightly constrained, otherwise it would be all too easy to get tied up in knots. There’s often a single idea to be resolved: one level requires you to find a way of reordering three blocks. Another puts you in a small room where you can’t come back if you leave, so you are making sure you are in the right order before you do so. Most of the levels have a nice conceptual difference to them, which is reasonably rare for a sliding puzzle game.
There are thirty levels here, which would be on the low side if this wasn’t about the price of a bag of rice. There’s no reason to replay them, as there are no move counters, high score tables or collectibles. It’s a one-and-done game with as much re-use as that bag of rice.
There’s still a nagging sense of hollowness from playing Squares – Brain Game 2, though. In the presentation sense, it is minimalist to a fault. You are shuffling squares into squares on a map of squares. A neon glow does help, but the end result is a lack of charm. Even the menus have a ‘will this do?’ attitude.
And perhaps it’s me, but I am reaching saturation point on sliding puzzles. Not only are there dozens of budget sliders on the market, but adventure games have a habit of tossing them in to mix up gameplay too. Both sliding puzzles and sokoban box-pushers are flipping everywhere, and there’s a strange, nagging sense that I have played certain layouts before. While Squares – Brain Game 2 should be commended for adding in more than one character to control, it’s not so revelatory that we haven’t seen it before, and it often just means the same old layouts, but with one more thing to keep an eye on.
So, I’m conflicted. A general ennui at the sliding puzzle genre shouldn’t really impact Squares – Brain Game 2’s score, but it doesn’t remove the air of familiarity while playing it. If you’re not bored to tears by this type of game and you have a pound rattling around in your wallet, it’s competent enough that we’d encourage you to give it a go. If you feel like you’ve been there and got the t-shirt, however, then Squares – Brain Game 2 won’t do anything for you.
You can buy Squares – Brain Game 2 from the Xbox Store for Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S
- A competent little sliding puzzle game
- Cheap as chips
- Mixes things up with multiple characters
- Faint sense that you’ve played this before
- Minimalist presentation
- No achievements
- Massive thanks for the free copy of the game go to - Purchased by TXH
- Formats - Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PC
- Version reviewed - Xbox One on Xbox Series X
- Release date - 24 Feb 2022
- Launch price from - £2.49 (immediately discounted to 79p