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DERU – The Art of Cooperation Indie Game Review

While I enjoy most video game genres, two of my favorite video game genres are puzzle games and co-op games. I have always liked puzzle games as it is quite satisfying completing a challenging puzzle. Ever since I was a kid, I always loved playing games cooperatively with my brother. When I saw DERU – The Art of Cooperation I was immediately interested as it combined two the of genres I enjoy most. The game’s concept while simple, really interested me. DERU – The Art of Cooperation may seem simplistic but hiding under the surface is one of the better co-op puzzle games that I have played in quite some time.

We at Geeky Hobbies would like to thank INK KIT Studios for the review copy of DERU – The Art of Cooperation used for this review. Other than receiving a free copy of the game to review, we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation for this review. Receiving the review copy for free had no impact on the content of this review or the final score.

The premise behind DERU – The Art of Cooperation is pretty straightforward. There are two shapes on the screen, one white and one black. If there are two players, each player controls one shape. When there is only one player, they control both shapes. The goal of each level is to move the shapes to their corresponding exit spaces. That would be really easy except that there are obstacles in the way. In each level there are streams blocking your way to the exits. The white shape can block black streams but will be killed almost instantly by a white stream. The same applies to the black shape. The shapes have to work together in order to help create a path for the other shape so they can reach their exit.

With such a simple concept you wouldn’t think there would be much to DERU – The Art of Cooperation. In some ways you would be correct. The game only uses the analog stick/keyboard keys to move and you occasionally use another button to use a shape’s special ability. This makes the game very easy to pick up and play as it takes probably a minute to explain the game to new players. As DERU – The Art of Cooperation is better as a cooperative game (more on this later), I think this is a good thing for the game as it will make it easier to find another person to play the game with. The game only supports local multiplayer so you will have to encourage a friend or family member to play the game with you. Have a family member/friend that doesn’t play a lot of video games but likes puzzles? With the game’s simplicity, you have a pretty good chance of convincing them to play the game with you.

While DERU – The Art of Cooperation is a simple game, that does not mean that it is a bad game. It is actually the exact opposite. DERU – The Art of Cooperation is a great game. It is a good example of a game not having to be complex in order to be good. I had a lot of fun playing the game which is not particularly surprising as I really like indie games from this genre. I think the reason DERU – The Art of Cooperation succeeds with such a simple concept is that it does a great job utilizing the concept. You may only be moving shapes, blocking streams, and getting shapes to their exits. DERU – The Art of Cooperation finds a lot to do with these few mechanics though. When my brother and I finished the game, we were sad to see it end.

The first reason why DERU – The Art of Cooperation is able to do so much with such a simple concept, is that it includes three different shapes. Each shape has its own special ability which is used for a lot of the puzzles. You begin the game as the triangle, who unfortunately has no special ability. Next comes the circle which can share its’ mass with the other shape. Press the action button and you give some of your mass to the other shape. This allows you to make your shape smaller or larger. Players can use this to make their shape large to block more, or they can use it to make themselves small in order to avoid the streams that would kill them. Finally you get access to the square which can break off into pieces providing blockers that stay in place. For most of the earlier levels, you are given two of the same shape. As you progress through the game though, you will encounter puzzles where you are given two different shapes. This expands the possibilities exponentially. The game does a good job combining these different mechanics together to create some good puzzles.

Speaking of puzzles, the other reason why DERU – The Art of Cooperation does such a great job with the concept is due to the game’s puzzle design. With such a simple concept, the puzzle design had to be really good or the game would get repetitive pretty quickly. The good news is that the puzzle design in DERU – The Art of Cooperation is great. With the game only having a couple different mechanics, I was genuinely surprised by how many different ways the game was able to use the mechanics. While the levels share similar concepts, each level feels unique. The best thing about the puzzle design is that the levels are creative/challenging enough that you feel proud of yourself when you figure out what you are supposed to do.

While on the topic of puzzle design, I would say that DERU – The Art of Cooperation’s difficulty kind of varies from level to level. In general I would say that the game varies from kind of easy to moderately difficult. The game gets more difficult later on but there are the occasional levels that are considerably easier than the previous levels. I would say that the difficulty is in the range where it is challenging enough that you aren’t left bored but it isn’t so challenging that you get frustrated. I do play a lot of puzzle games though so that may have skewed my opinion of the game’s difficulty. If you don’t play a lot of puzzle games, you might find the game to be a little more challenging than I did. If you are a master at puzzle solving though, you might find the game to be a little easier than I did.

With a name like DERU – The Art of Cooperation, it should not come as a surprise that the game is meant to be a cooperative experience. As I mentioned earlier, the game can be played two different ways. First the game can be played with another player in local/couch co-op. This is how I ended up playing the game, and it is probably the way I would recommend playing it. The game was designed to be played with another player as you work together to solve the puzzles. This might be a frustrating experience for some people if they have trouble communicating with their partner. I think it is more enjoyable though as you have to think and work together in order to succeed. If you have no one to play the game with or easily become frustrated playing co-op games, you can also choose to play the game single player. The game still plays the same but you control both shapes with a different analog stick/set of keys. This works fine for the most part but I think it adds some challenge to some of the levels. It is sometimes hard controlling both shapes at the same time when you are under a time crunch. If possible I would highly recommend playing the game with another person.

DERU – The Art of Cooperation might not look like much at first glance, but I actually think the game’s visual style works really well for the game. The game’s art style is really minimalist with most levels just having the two shapes, some black and white streams, and a background. I think the game’s graphical style fits the gameplay perfectly. When you add in the musical score (which is also quite good), the game does a fantastic job creating a relaxing atmosphere perfect for the puzzle solving gameplay.

While I really enjoyed DERU – The Art of Cooperation, I did have two issues with the game that kept it from being perfect.

For the most part I would say DERU – The Art of Cooperation has two different types of puzzles. I would say that a majority of the puzzles just require you to figure out a way to get both shapes to their exits. The other type of puzzles involve more timing and cooperation. In these puzzles the shapes need to move in unison as both shapes need to complete a given task within a certain amount of time. Of the two types of puzzles I think DERU – The Art of Cooperation does better with the first type of puzzles. I enjoy the timing puzzles as well but there is one thing that kept me from fully enjoying them.

At times the controls in DERU – The Art of Cooperation felt a little sluggish. For most puzzles this doesn’t make that much of a difference as you can take your time to place the shapes how you want them. Some of the puzzles require some precise timing though. At times this lead us to fail some levels that we otherwise wouldn’t have had much trouble completing. I am not 100% sure that this is DERU’s fault. For one thing we played the game on a big screen TV using the Steam Link in order to avoid having to play the game on a small computer monitor. Using the Steam Link, the shapes would regularly move at different speeds which made the timing puzzles difficult. I am guessing this is mostly a Steam Link issue as the controls were quite a bit smoother on a computer monitor. The other contributing factor to the sluggish controls is that I played a pre-release version of the game. This issue seemed to get better after each update so I am guessing that it will either be completely eliminated or severely reduced through future patches.

The other issue I had with DERU – The Art of Cooperation is that the game could be a little longer. This is not that surprising as most puzzle games, especially co-op puzzle games, are not particularly long. DERU – The Art of Cooperation feature five worlds and each world has around fifteen levels. I would say the game has around 70-75 levels in total. This doesn’t sound that bad except that the levels are the type that you can finish in just a couple minutes once you figure out what you have to do. Some levels you could literally finish in a minute. If you are at least somewhat good at puzzle games, I would guess that it would take most people around 4-6 hours to beat the game. The biggest problem that I had with the length is that I just wanted to keep playing the game. I wish the game would have added another world or two. Outside of trying to get all of the achievements, I don’t see a lot of replay value in the game unless you wait long enough to forget the solutions to all of the puzzles.

At the end of the day my brother and I had a lot of fun playing DERU – The Art of Cooperation. As we both love playing puzzle and co-op games this is not that surprising. I was still a little surprised though. Despite having such a simple concept, the game works so well. This simplicity makes the game accessible to people who don’t play a lot of video games, which is a good thing as the game is better if you play with another person. While the game’s concept is simple, the game does such a great job utilizing its mechanics to their full potential. The game finds unique ways of using the mechanics to design some really interesting puzzles. I would say the game’s difficulty is easy to moderately difficult which puts it in a place where it is challenging enough to keep you interested without becoming frustrating. While I loved playing DERU – The Art of Cooperation, I had two issues with the game. At times the controls felt a little sluggish. I also wish the game would have been a little longer, mostly because I just wanted to keep playing the game.

I really enjoyed my time with DERU – The Art of Cooperation and I would recommend that most people check it out. If you hate puzzle or cooperative games, it may not be for you. If you like puzzle games and have someone else to play with, I think you will love DERU – The Art of Cooperation.

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