Octahedron Review — Sexed-Up Mechanics

by Jed Pressgrove

Whereas the overrated Celeste is more interested in death and whining than creative expression, Octahedron can’t get no satisfaction with its basic idea of a hero creating temporary platforms to reach new heights. From level to level, developer Demimonde obsessively introduces wrinkles to his game, showcasing a thirst for change that recalls the passion of jazz trumpeter Miles Davis.

In Octahedron, the primary goal of every level is to reach the exit. You play as a blockheaded protagonist whose only power is to form platforms that disappear after a second or two. This premise somewhat recalls the 1986 classic Solomon’s Key, but Demimonde delivers a more urgent experience. To the textures and beats of a trance and house soundtrack, you can slide your temporary platforms to the left or right before they dissipate, allowing you to access the farthest corners of the game’s neon tunnels. All the while, you must keep count: initially, you can only create two platforms before needing to touch a permanent platform in order to recharge your precious ability.

The journey keeps morphing via a neverending well of rules, contraptions, and enemies. In one level, Demimonde gives you the allowance of 50 platforms that you can call into being before needing to land on solid ground, but this freedom comes with the price of having to navigate a maze of electrified walls while dodging the lasers of a stationary sentry whose counterclockwise rotations evoke a disco ball gone mad sniper. In another level, you can only create one platform at a time, unless you grab plus-sign power-ups in midair to add to your capacity.

Octahedron has no shortage of environmental puzzles that arrive with no detailed tutorial; Demimonde asks your lust for experimentation to match his. Thankfully, the ideas are as intuitive as they are stimulating, from pipes that suck you into different parts of levels to platforms that pop in and out of existence based on how far you move to the left or right. The affair becomes more complex when you gain the ability to conjure a second type of platform that shoots destructive beams from its bottom. This dominating power comes in handy when you must, say, deal with platforms that turn into bat-like pests once you get high enough above them.

Like many other platformers, Octahedron offers items to collect for a perfect performance. Unlike the case with Fez or Celeste, the collecting here feels orgasmic rather than constipated. Flowers bust out of light bulbs that you smash with your gliding platforms. Secret areas illuminate when you dare to go to precarious inches of the levels. Sometimes you pass the literal boundaries of stages. The fluidity and restlessness of Demimonde’s game is gasp-worthy.

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6 comments

  1. Terrific game! I probably wouldn’t have known about it if not for you, and again it seems I keep agreeing with your take in whatever action game you play, so thanks.

    The thing is, while reading your review before playing I didn’t get how important was the idea of constant creativity (change, morphing, fluidity) in the game. It’s impressive how uniquely every single level develops and how varied and original and sofisticated these sets of rules (and their combinations) feel.

    It’s a shame that the title isn’t making almost any noise, though. I get that it doesn’t have the visual polish and prettiness of, say, Celeste, but still. I’m finding the game so good so far that I’m astonished it has gone pretty much unnoticed.

    1. Glad you like this one. I actually think it’s more aesthetically pleasing than Celeste, but like you, I’m a little surprised that it hasn’t gotten more attention, especially given that it’s published by Square Enix.

      1. I also prefer Octahedron aesthetically, I find it more interesting, and the same goes for its soundtrack. I wasn’t talking about what I think is better or like the most, though, but about a more polished prettiness in Matt’s game, a more varied, colorful set of environments with human characters whose faces we see cutely portrayed in dialogue boxes. In my opinion, that will always bring more people in than Octahedron’s visual choice. After watching the trailer, an acquaintance even asked me if it didn’t give me headache to play the game.

        However, I’m not convinced that’s all, or some Cavanagh games wouldn’t have been the hits they ended up being. VVVVVV or Super Hexagon come to mind because of some key visual similarities, the second one even featuring music by Chipzel, who also worked on various tracks for Octahedron. Poor advertising and/or lack of visibility, maybe? I hadn’t seen any review of the game until you wrote yours, for example.

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