With the cyclical nature of videogames, everything that was old becomes new again and vice versa. Look to Call of Duty for an example – the series’ transition from WW2 historical piece to Modern Warfare, space combat and back again shows this in a single thread. Following on from classic 2D platformers of yore, we’ve seen dozens upon dozens of modern classics hit the digital storefront in recent years – Super Meat Boy, Fez and Cave Story just to name a few. Octahedron comes from Demimonde, a one-man studio from Switzerland, and is attempting to add itself to those ranks.
Playing as part puzzler, part platformer, Octahedron immediately announces itself with a vibrant 80s sci-fi aesthetic somewhere between the colour palette of that era with the fluid, neon inspired graphical style of cult-classic Rez. Introducing new concepts on a level by level basis, on a most basic level Octahedron is about getting from the bottom of the screen to the top. In order to do this, you’ll find yourself bouncing from platform to platform and using it’s unique “platform creation” mechanic to help navigate long jumps.
These platforms (which are created with a single button press) will allow you to stand in midair for a split second, and can even be moved with you standing on them. This leads to some clever uses of the platform to block projectiles and trigger platforms that only activate when you’re in a certain area of the screen.
So. Much. Purple.
Subsequent levels introduce new abilities and new dangers, but Octahedron’s lack of tutorials are negated by quick respawns to ensure trial and error attempts are never too infuriating. In fact, while it is possible to respawn at checkpoints, I found accidentally falling to the beginning of a level was a good way to demonstrate all of the skills I’d learned and to use every tool at my disposal to fly back up the screen like a seasoned professional.
While Octahedron’s beauty is in its subtle amalgamation of it’s influences with its simple hook, the visual style isn’t without it’s problems. After a few levels, platforms that disappear (as per almost every platformer in history) are introduced. This can lead to some frustration as because of the minimalist and colourful art, it can be difficult to work out when the platform is there and when it isn’t as the visual clues are perhaps too understated. A minor annoyance, but one all the same.
The game’s soundtrack is perfectly suited too. What begins as an incredibly minimalist set of beeps and boops soon flourishes into a flurry of chip tunes and house beats with enemies and level elements responding to certain musical cues. This then helps you plan your jumps accordingly.
The “level select” screen resembles a Deus Ex hacking mini game
Every level has been given the kind of pixel-perfect love that the genre’s greatest have received, every jump inch perfect and every puzzle a challenge without becoming frustrating at any point. In fact, the game’s difficulty ramps up so steadily and doles out new concepts at such an ideal pace that no death feels cheap and yet no victory feels unearned.
Octahedron is a vibrant, challenging and fun time. It flows like the best in the genre and every facet of the game from it’s menu screen to the soundtrack have clearly been a labour of love. It has earned it’s place in the pantheon of modern 2D platforming classics.
*This review was written in fair exchange for a early review code*