When getting our hands-on Octahedron, we couldn't help but be reminded of past indies Downwell and Crypt of the Necrodancer. Octahedron is psychedelic action platformer with a groovy chiptune soundtrack and a fresh twist of using temporary platforms to scale levels. It's the latest title to have been developed in conjunction with Square Enix Collective, the platform that has supported the released of The Turing Test, Deadbeat Heroes, and many more besides. The title was rather impressively developed by one lone developer and has recently arrived on PC, PS4, and Xbox One.
Throughout Octahedron's 50-ish levels, the challenge is to climb to the very summit, generating platforms to aid your traversal. After pressing the X button (on PS4) you can hit square to spawn a platform beneath you and by holding the same button you can whizz across the screen like you're riding a surfboard. The catch is that you only generate two platforms (in most stages) before touching solid ground. Complicating matters are the revolving laser traps, missile-firing disco balls, and the obnoxious slow-crawling spiders found within each stage. Your new triangle-faced companion handles as smooth as butter, but the controls can be easily tweaked if you were to have any issues.
You are given three hearts and three continues (to begin with) and by depleting them all you are forced to begin a stage again. There are checkpoints placed rather sparingly that do help, and these are indicated by flashing arrows. Each time you collide with an enemy or a trap you'll lose a heart, but these can be recovered by smashing certain light bulbs. If you're to receive a game over, you won't have to start the game again but you will have to repeat a stage from the beginning, losing any collectables you have attained.
This simple premise is expanded upon further in later levels. During the second world you receive another type of platform that you can select that destroys anything underneath you. There are some interesting puzzles introduced here as you'll have to, for example, eliminate a set amount of spider bots to open a door or destroy the ground underneath you to temporarily backtrack and hit switches. Each stage we felt presented its own challenge and was unique. One stage, for example, saw us being chased by a swarm of pixels that caused us harm on impact and another required us to use a network of pipes to make our way to the top.
Often hanging before you are light bulbs that can be shattered to spawn collectable flowers. Each stage has its own number of flowers to collect giving you extra incentive to revisit each level upon completion. There are also neon triangles that are usually found behind much trickier stretches of platforming (though beware, these can be tough). These triangles can be used in exchange for character upgrades like improving your health or platform duration. Hunting down these collectables can easily add an extra few hours, but we felt like a competitive time trial mode would have really helped add longevity.
As your platforms are pretty narrow, one slip will send you tumbling back down to the start. During these heart-wrenching moments, we found it much easier to sacrifice a life rather than try to make our way back to the top, and we can imagine that this setup may work to erode the patience of more casual players. There's also a great degree of trial and error when fresh mechanics are introduced, and a lack of hand-holding means that you'll likely die (a lot). Despite this though, we always found ourselves coming back even if we had to take the occasional break to keep ourselves calm.
Each stage is illuminated by flashing neon lights and everything including the flowers, light bulbs, and lasers pulse along with the beat. You really feel like you're caught in the middle of a rave whilst playing and its visual direction and soundtrack mirror each other beautifully. We couldn't help but bop our head, controller in hand, to the music which was created by trance producers Andre Sobta and Derek Howell, as well as Irish chiptune composer Chipzel. It's not too shabby on the performance side of things either with the title running at a solid 60 FPS.
While it may not have been on the radar for many, Octahedron is a platforming gem that shouldn't be overlooked. We loved how it was able to build upon such a simple premise and its neon visuals and pulsating soundtrack really pulled us in. It is, however, a title that may not be for everyone as we expect that the trial and error gameplay and the lack of checkpoints may not gel with everyone. Still, we had a great time with Octahedron and we'd urge you to check it out if you're seeking a fresh take on the platforming genre.
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