Octahedron is hands down one of the hardest, yet most rewarding platformers you will probably ever play. Its simplistic concept might make you feel like it’ll be easy enough to pick up, but its level design is the true monster here.
Octahedron kicks off with a solitary man hanging out in his cabin in the middle of the woods. Out of nowhere he sees a flash of light and decides to explore. He stumbles upon this black void which pulls him in and replaces his head with an Octahedron; a geometric shape constructed out of 8 equilateral triangles. If you’re as dumbfounded as I was, don’t worry, that’s pretty much it for the story, which didn’t really need to be there in the first place. Now, it falls on you to help this man navigate his way through increasingly difficult platforming levels while rocking out to an extremely sweet techno soundtrack.
This game is a pinpoint precision platformer that is made only a tiny bit easier by realizing a lot of the platforming goes with the beat of the song in the background. I can’t remember playing a platformer that demanded this level of precision without showing any semblance of mercy. While some might call it the “Dark Souls of Platformers” I’m going to vehemently disagree. Octahedron shares nothing with the souls series, except for difficulty, so let’s keep that comparison away from this game.
Octahedron is simply, a musical platformer that demands extreme accuracy and patience. It is absolutely a challenging game, but like most good games, it forces you to learn it’s mechanics in order to succeed. There is no greater feeling than completing a level in this game with a near perfect run, after spending the past half hour dying and dying to the same mistakes.
It’s commendable that Demimonde, the game’s developer, didn’t budge on the difficulty, or even give the option to change the difficulty. It should also be acknowledged that they created a platformer that is so diverse with its levels that it never feels like you’re experiencing the same puzzle twice. The amount of levels in this game is intimidating, especially given the difficulty tied to it. Yet, each level feels new and presents you with a completely different set of challenges from the last.
You could spend 20 minutes working through a level that requires you to move from one side of the screen to the other in order to make platforms appear for you to move higher. After finally nailing the timing and getting to the next level, all of that time and practice goes out the window and you’re forced to adapt to an entirely new set of rules or mechanics.
Regardless of all the rage induced moments I had playing this game, that concept always brought me back. Yes, it was frustrating trying to nail down the timing of every jump and making sure I dropped onto the platforms at just the right time, but knowing I wouldn’t really have to worry about doing that again was like a light at the end of the tunnel. At much later stages you might encounter similar levels and mechanics, but by that time you’re so used to the game, it’ll feel much easier than your first time through. For the most part, this scale of variety left me curious which challenges I would face next.
The gameplay in Octahedron is pretty straight forward. Pressing one button makes your character jump, pressing another makes a platform appear below him. You can hold that button and run across the screen while gliding on the platform, but it disappears after he turns completely red. There is a quick cooldown and then you can use them again. There are passive skills you can acquire the further you get into the game which helps combat the enemies and obstacles in the levels. Things like lasers shooting out of the bottom or sides of your platform when you activate it, help neutralize some threats, but hardly make navigating any easier. That still falls on you.
This game, like most, finds it’s niche as a Switch title as well. Platformers and the Switch just go so well together and Octahedron is no exception. With the Switch controls, the game allows you to use either right bumper or A to bring out the platforms. This allows everyone to find the right layout that works for them and helps ease the frustration. For a game that demands precision, having the ability to play around with a few controls until you find what you’re comfortable with was something I appreciated Demimonde taking the time to do. While the Switch speakers aren’t the greatest, the sound quality of this retro set sounds fine.
However, playing it docked or with headphones in obviously gives you a much better audio experience. It also might not be a terrible idea to play this title while docked, period. While the screen never pans out where seeing your character is difficult, the bigger screen option, I found, made tricky platforming sections a little easier. This is easily a game that is meant to be taken on the go though, which the Switch kindly provides. Due to the frustration some might encounter, Octahedron is absolutely a pickup n’ play type title, that might fair better for some taken in small doses. On top of that, it’s simple, classic design makes this game extremely battery life friendly. I found myself getting between 3-4 hours of playtime before I had to consider docking my console.
Every level has 4 possible goals to meet. Getting through a level without dying (Deus), getting through with a minimal number of platform uses (Par), creating a minimal number of platforms while also getting all the collectibles (Par 100%), and simply just collecting everything within a level (100%). On top of this, there are two types of collectibles, one that is out in the open and one that I didn’t realize was something I needed to be collecting right away. Throughout the levels are triangles floating in the open.
Getting to them is a puzzle within itself, and sometimes all of them aren’t out in the open but hidden behind illusory walls or objects. The other collectible is flowers you collect after smashing the lights hanging around the maps. Smashing them, blooms these flowers and collecting all of those is the only way to progress through zones. At the end of every zone is a gateway that only unlocks after collecting a certain number of flowers/seeds. While these are the way to progress through the game, collecting all the triangles should be a primary concern. After acquiring all eight of them in a level you can sometimes gain access to extra hard bonus levels. Completing these gives the real reward, permanent power-ups! These drastically change traversal and set things more in your favor. Trust me, you’ll want to take the time to find these.
Overall Octahedron is an incredible platforming experience. It’s simple in design yet extremely difficult to master. While it absolutely induces fits of rage, it’s collectibles and insanely good soundtrack keep you coming back for more. The sheer level of creativity within every level leaves you never feel like you’re retreading familiar territory, which leaves you with just enough curiosity to keep coming back to see what new frustrations await you.