What happens when you leave a man in the wood? He tumbles into a thicket and emerges a pulsating being of light of course. Descend into the world of Veetragoul with us as we take an eight-sided action hero for the neon age on a tour through Square Enix’s blistering platformer, Octahedron: Transfixed Edition.
Originally released back in 2017 on PC, the Nintendo Switch edition of Demimonde’s platforming adventure arrives on 17 January 2019 and while the platform has changed, the conceit is still the same. Octahedron: Transfixed Edition turns players into a being of glimmering light and proceeds to challenge anybody brave enough with a pulsating tour of 50 levels, all tailored to keep you on your toes and keep your toes tapping to the beat. A stellar selection of electronic music accompanies Octahedron. Contributions from artists like Chipzel, and Monomirror make for a standout experience. I am already a huge fan of Chipzel’s work and from the moment that you step into Octahedron’s world, tracks like Valor and Authority just push you along. The synth beats and electronic musings of the musical background are all incredibly polished, with tracks like Monomirror’s pulsating Rift and even the beautifully melancholy Diamond Veins seeming to fit every moment of the game exquisitely. As with Just Shapes & Beats, which also featured Chipzel’s work, this is an unrelenting experience that drags players through every level, with a series of obstacles that really do dance to the beat.
Whether it is a glowing platform, a rotating death laser, or a bipedal light bulb that stands between you and the massive fluorescent cube hanging at the top of each level, Octahedron follows a very particular rhythm. Lasers that turn on you rotate at just the right pace, platforms bob up and down the screen, and spritely enemies bounce around at just the right tempo for each and every track that blasts in the background. From the pulsating wave of color that shimmers in the background, waving and reacting to the items you interact with, to the movement of creeps as they inch towards you, this curated collection of obstacles and chiptune music provides a fantastic natural metronome for every level. This combination generally manages to drag players through content at a good pace, making the whole experience feel fluid with tracks like Andre Sobota’s Eclipse, which keep things rattling along at an ever more frenetic pace as Octahedron begins to reveal a more complex side than you might expect.
Getting around in Octahedron is not all about battering across the platforms that already populate each set of levels. One of the unexpected side effects of turning into a multi-sided neon entity is being able to create your very own platforms. At the touch of a button, a personal neon stand appears below players turning the game’s shining protagonist into something of a hyperlight drifter. The platforms spawned don’t just allow players ascend to their escape, but can slide across the screen for a limited time. Like so many of the best indie titles to land on the Nintendo Switch, this takes a simple idea and constantly reinvents itself to keep things fresh. While the first stage platform provides a simple movement mechanic, different iterations of this ability are introduced at the end of each stage.
Stages that follow the initial few obstacles challenge players to switch between these new powers, breaking circuits, smashing bulbs, and collecting shapes in order to accumulate enough points to proceed to later stages. Whether it is choosing to use a benign platform to slip silently overhead or slot in the option to blast all and sunder with a platform that excretes a laser beam, these abilities are more than just for show. They are integral to each level design, unlocking areas, opening platforms, and sucking you into a network of tunnels that weave around the world. To try to list every variation of this deceptively simple mechanic would be arduous and would simply miss the point. Octahedron successfully manages to take an uncomplicated idea, keeps rotating in constant variation, and makes these changes feel useful throughout a series of hand-crafted levels that require at least a little forethought.
Blunder in without considering what Octahedron wants you to do and you will die. In fact, you will die, usually in a blaze of light particles. Especially in later levels, Octahedron is noisy by any comparison. Keeping up with the pounding synth rhythms or the assault of glowing objects on the screen can be somewhat intimidating as the games throws everything at you. The result is a feeling that things begin to spiral out of control. As a result, docking your Switch on a big screen is well worth the time. Until this wall came quite unceremoniously crashing down on me, however, I found Octahedron on the go to be a genuinely enjoyable challenge, with a clear and concise control system that never feels like it conflates complexity with challenge.
While I might feel that the endgame of Octahedron is a bit of a neon assault, there is no reason not to go back and replay earlier levels. Octahedron: Transfixed Edition provides a host of new achievements, mostly related to time trials, and the scoreboard system means that you can always find a way to grab just one more neon shape to add to your tally. The quality of the final soundtrack helps in this regard too and I’ve yet to get tired of Octahedron. Octahedron is lights and magic. It takes simple ideas, wraps them up in the shiniest wrapping you could imagine and blasts out unrelenting fun at 130 bpm. Octahedron is definitely worth your time. It is simple yet challenging and I imagine that, just like Just Shapes & Beats, this will be in my long term rotation as I slowly edge towards that final neon cube in the sky. If you can’t wait to test yourself, you can find a demo on the Nintendo eShop right now. The full game can be purchased for $12.99, or your regional equivalent, when it goes live on the 17th Jan.