Platform: PC, PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One
Publisher: Square Enix
Release date: Out now
Price: PC: £10/$13
TL;DR: A pretty puzzle/platformer that is more frustrating than fun.
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Octahedron is probably the most visually pleasing platformer I’ve ever played. The bright neon colours against the stark, black background – even the loading screen for each level – has a certain crispness that just has to be appreciated. The opening cutscene should seem out of place, giving you an introduction to the basic story with a minimalist art style that would be more at home in a visual novel, but even that somehow works.
It’s a vertical puzzle/platformer where the objective is to (unsurprisingly) get to the exit at the top of the level and move on to the next. Your character – who bizarrely has an octahedron for a head – is able to conjure platforms beneath his feet for a limited time. You can move the platform horizontally as well as jump from it, though each level will limit the number of these platforms you’re able to make before you must touch ground again. As you progress through the levels, you unlock new platforms that add utility as well as movement.
While this is a simple enough premise, objects and enemies are soon introduced that can hinder your progress, whether it’s a bug-like thing crawling lazily around the platform that you want to jump to, or strange blobs that fire out projectiles that will hit you if you don’t move past them quickly enough. There are also surfaces that want to kill you, lasers that want to fry you, and little flying creatures that will chase you mercilessly.
There are many collectables along the way which you can (and should) pick up. Moving your platform through neon lightbulbs will smash them, and releases flowers that are sent to a platform somewhere above you; there are also brightly coloured polyhedrons to collect, and you’ll also find the occasional extra life in the shape of a red heart. These are all tracked, and you’ll be able to see how many you collected at the end of the level, though that’s as far as my comprehension of the score screen goes. If you have missed any of those pickups on your first time through, you’ll be able to go back and replay earlier levels whenever you choose.
All of this is accompanied by an incredibly catchy and upbeat electronic soundtrack, which encourages your progress as you jump from platform to platform, in time with the beat.
This all sounds great, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, it’s not.
While Octahedron doesn’t do anything particularly surprising for a platformer, having a limited number of lives before the game dumps you unceremoniously back at the beginning of the level is just rage-inducing. There is no tutorial in Octahedron; the game wants you to learn through trial and error, and while that can be fun, the checkpoints are pretty unforgiving in places, giving you no choice but to redo often tedious sections. While, admittedly, the levels aren’t particularly long, what’s also not great is that every life you lose during that process puts you closer to being dumped back at the beginning, and all of your progress on the level so far being undone – including any and all pickups.
The controls are not difficult; D-pad to move left or right, X to jump. However, it was the choice of either Square or R2 to conjure a platform beneath your feet that made me stumble. I tried both and neither felt right. It wasn’t so bad in the earlier levels, which were a bit more forgiving, but as soon as the difficulty ramped up and more precise timing was needed, it just felt wrong.
Everything about Octahedron screams quality and fun, and I’m fairly confident that players who like a challenge will find this game enjoyable. Unfortunately – and despite my best efforts, because I really wanted to like this game – I’m not one of them. The trial and error approach coupled with the limited number of lives is what killed the game for me. If it had been one or the other, I would have enjoyed it, but I found myself getting more and more frustrated the more I played.
I’m sorry, Octahedron. It’s not you, it’s me.
- Clean graphics
- Catchy soundtrack
- Option to replay levels
- Limited lives for each level
- Unforgiving checkpoints
- Platform controls didn’t feel natural
Rated: PEGI 7/ESRB E for Everyone; suitable for everyone (with more patience than me).
Disclaimer: This review is based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review.