I last wrote about Octahedron in 2014, when it made its debut at the final EGX to grace Earl’s Court. While I loved the game then, in spite of its brutal level of difficulty, I’d sort of lost track of it in the intervening years, a fate that many games with long development times suffer from. I was, however, absolutely delighted to realise this psychedelic platformer had returned to an EGX event, this time at Tobacco Dock’s Rezzed.
As you’d expect from a platformer, Octahedron is essentially all about jumping between platforms. Although most 2D platformers see you go left to right, Octahedron is more of a vertical affair, generally asking you to reach the top of a level.
However, the platforms in question seem disconcertingly far apart, and that’s where the game’s main mechanic comes into play: platform placement. As you jump, a simple tap of a button sees a platform appear beneath your feet, while holding the button means it’ll move to the left or the right with you. Each platform you place has a limited lifespan, and you’re also limited in the number of platforms you can place when jumping between solid ground.
As you’d expect, progressing through the game earns you the ability to create more platforms in one go, as well as adding new abilities to these platforms. When being attacked from below, you can use your platforms defensively from the off, but you gain offensive capabilities too, so they can rain energy beams down onto enemies beneath you, for example.
And what of the game’s unforgiving nature that I wrote about back in 2014? Well it’s fair to say that Octahedron is a lot more approachable now. A simple heart system has been added, sending you back a short distance if an enemy manages to get the better of you, although once you run out of hearts you will be sent back to the last checkpoint. It now feels like the game’s hitting the difficulty sweet spot really, punishing you for failure, but never feeling completely beyond your reach.
While the game’s core mechanics are certainly interesting and well realised, it’s Octahedrons presentation that really makes it stand out. For a start, this game is buttery smooth. The framerate feels high and very solid, while input lag seems minimal, helping the feeling that any mistakes you make are your own fault, not the game’s.
It’s gorgeous as well. The world is 2D with some 3D rendered elements, and manages to be both minimalist and packed with colour and detail. Platforms, for example, are hollow, removing unnecessary clutter from the world. This simplistic approach continues through to the character design. You control what’s little more than a stickman (although he does have a spinning, 3D octahedron for a head), and enemies are generally clear, simple shapes that you can differentiate at a glance.
What really brings this art style to life is the way the entire world pulses with vibrant, neon light as you play. It’s not an uncommon design choice, but Octahedron manages to bring it to a new level.
Although we’ve been in the high definition era of gaming for over a decade now, there’s something about the way that the game’s world glows at you from the screen that really sells high definition in the way the few others do. Perhaps it’s the amount of detail and action that Octahedron manages to convey through its simple shapes or the rate that it all comes at you, but it’s incredibly compelling and drew me in in a way that few other games have.
Accompanying all of this is a fantastic soundtrack that fits perfectly with what you see on screen. This shouldn’t be surprising given that the man behind the game, Marco Guardia, has worked extensively as a music producer, including being one half of trance act Flutlicht.
For Octahedron, Guardia has also worked extensively with chiptune artist Chipzel, and it’s fair to say that what’s been produced for the game is absolutely superb. It’s not just the fact that it pairs well with the game’s general aesthetic and gameplay feel, it really does enhance the game as whole, raising the game’s pulsing art style even further and helping to drive you onwards as you play the game. Ultimately, you’re almost left with the sensation that this is a rhythm game, as you find yourself unconsciously making jumps in time with the beat.
Perhaps what makes Octahedron so compelling is the fact it achieves everything it sets out to. This is what a game looks like when it’s living up to its full potential, and it would be hard to praise it enough for that.
While Octahedron should be out later this year, coming to PS4, Xbox One, PC and maybe more, if you’re at Rezzed this weekend I can’t recommend checking it out enough. Try it for yourself and be suitably blown away.