Personally I would have saved a game name like Octahedron for a surreal buddy cop adventure, starring a mind-controlling octopus riding around on the head of a chap named Ron. While that’s not the plot to Octahedron, it really isn’t that far removed; a man out in a little cabin in the woods finds himself sucked down into the world of Veetragoul, his head replaced with a glowing, spinning octahedron. It’s obviously complete nonsense, and all that really matters is that you immerse yourself in this glowing, pulsating neon underworld of platforming and trance. This unique platformer is coming to Switch this week, and it’s as excellent as ever.
The key hook to Octahedron, outside of the fantastic visual style and soundtrack, is that you create platforms beneath your very feet. You jump with one button, and create a platform with the other, which you can then slide from left to right across the screen until it fades from existence. It’s a simple sounding hook, but adds a different kind of challenge compared to other platformers. It’s also a key part of why the levels are assembled vertically, as opposed to the more traditional side-scrolling approach.
The biggest hurdle to start with is just getting to grips with the mechanic of creating those platforms beneath your feet. Similar to holding run and tapping jump in a 2D Mario game, you can do both with your thumb rested across both the B and Y buttons on Switch, but having just come from playing New Super Mario Bros. U it threw me to have to reverse the rocking motion and not be holding one of them down.
There’s no option to change the control scheme, but it’s something that stops being much of a problem by the end of the first chapter.
Update: The controls can be customised from the title screen, but not from the in-game and level select menu screen. There is also an alternate platform create button, which defaults to the right trigger. Apologies for the error.
By then, you have much bigger things to worry about. Octahedron constantly reinvents itself around new types of platforms and how the levels are built with new enemies and game mechanics in mind. Loading into each level, there’s a mixture of eagerness and abject horror as you find out what new tricks the levels have lying in wait. It could be platforms that turn into murderous birds that fly after you if you jump higher than them, new twists on enemies that fire projectiles, scanning laser beams that shoot deadly blasts at you…
Even just the way levels are laid out brings new challenges, as you have to puzzle your way through pipes, figure out how to open up new paths and backtrack, or simply try to grab the little collectable triangles. Each level brings with it a different limit to the number of platforms that you can use before your feet need to touch solid ground, constantly varying the kind of challenge you face.
It gets damned tricky at times to make it through some sections unscathed, with hitting any hazards or enemies sending you back to the last solid ground you stood on, and taking one of three hearts before you lose a life and are sent all the way back to a checkpoint. Thankfully the progress made through a level doesn’t get rolled back as well.
There’s no overt tutorials to try and explain things to you, outside of when you gain a new type of platform and learn how it can be used. The first downward firing platform, for example, is used to shoot through particular grates and trigger switches, can temporarily kill the meandering enemies, and can break through the floors. Only the first of these is shown to you as you earn the ability.
It’s no surprise that the game’s presentation and style holds up perfectly on Nintendo Switch. This has also been dubbed the Transfixed Edition, which brings in new time trials, challenges and unlockables, but the bulk of the game is the same. The levels get pretty damned tricky at times, and with flickers of frustration as I fail to overcome a particular section or don’t manage to perfect a run, it’s easy to put the Switch down, stare into the abyss of Twitter or Reddit for a few moments, and then try again. That stop-start play is perfect for the game and using handheld mode.
Octahedron was easily one of the standout indie games of 2018 – that it wasn’t featured in our Game of the Year voting was a real shame. It’s not quite on the same level as the blend between sound, music and player actions as the work of Tetsuya Mizuguchi, but it’s easy to immerse yourself in the neon lights and trance. Whether you’re now picking it up on Nintendo Switch or playing on PS4, Xbox One or PC, it absolutely deserves your time and attention.