Octahedron: Transfixed Edition (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Rudy Lavaux 06.04.2019

Review for Octahedron: Transfixed Edition on Nintendo Switch

Octahedron is the brainchild of Demimonde studio, which is comprised of just one man, Marco aka Monomirror from Zürich, Switzerland. It is published under the Square Enix Collective brand; a platform on which creators such as Demimonde pitch their ideas to be greenlit, assuming enough people vote to see them come to fruition. Octahedron therefore attracted the interest of players, no doubt thanks to its flashy visuals and incredible audio, and was met with critical acclaim on other platforms in March 2018. Fast forward to January 2019 and the same game comes to the now hottest handheld around: the Nintendo Switch, now re-dubbed Octahedron: Transfixed Edition, no doubt due to the amount of customisation that went into this Switch port to achieve parity with other releases.

The premise of Octahedron: Transfixed Edition is that a man gets out of his house in the middle of the night to pick up wood to keep his home warm, and encounters in the dark an octahedron glowing in neon colours, which floats above a dark pit of doom. The protagonist touches it, and his whole body turns into particles of light, while his head is now an octahedron, and he gets sucked into the aforementioned dark pit which then seals itself. Our hero falls down into a weird neon dimension with no knowledge of how to get back, other than to follow each portal forward at the top of each stage, in hope of getting back up to our world. The experience here will certainly not be about enjoying a story but rather traversing a glowing world of black and neon with flashy visuals, and an upbeat soundtrack to go along with it.

The first thing learned in this world is how to create platforms. Indeed, each stage being a very vertical affair that has to be ascended, the hero's main and literally only power at disposal beyond a basic jump is that of creating platforms beneath him. Those platforms persist in the game world for a limited amount of time, during which they can also be moved around on the horizontal axis to cross larger gaps. Running the platform into some elements of the scenery destroys them, such as light bulbs hanging from ceilings, which contain health, or collectible items. Furthermore, different type of platforms come into play later on as they unlock, adding a simple shot to be fired downwards under said platform when it is created or later, on even a powerful laser beam that keeps firing for as long as the platform is there. A lot of modern 2D platformers take cues from other existing games, or simply build on what already exists, but in the case of Octahedron, this doesn't really feel like anything else already experienced before, and this effort of creativity on the part of one-man studio Demimonde is greatly appreciated!

Screenshot for Octahedron: Transfixed Edition on Nintendo Switch

The way this flows is very simple. The world is cut down into stages that scroll vertically, in which 30 items and eight pieces of an octahedron are scattered, and the player has to avoid hazards and reach the goal, while attempting to collect as many of these. Each "area" has a few stages, but to move on to the next one the player has to collect enough of the aforementioned items. Likewise, certain levels may have a section locked away behind a bridge made of pieces of octahedron, so enough of those need to be collected to unlock access to those as well along the way. The latter may house extra lives giving the protagonist more chances for trial and error within the stages that become more and more difficult further in, and those are indeed definitely necessary.

Lastly, each stage comes with its own challenges represented by medals. For example, the '100%' medal for collecting everything, or the 'Deus' medal for not dying once. Like many games designed these days, Octahedron also has a speedrunner display mode, and challenges to go along with in addition to the aforementioned, with medals for getting to the end in any percent, or in 100% categories within not only a par time, but also a par amount of platforms generated, like for instance getting through a stage while collecting 100% and only using 88 platforms. Those are daunting tasks indeed that add substance to a package that, for the price, already offers more than enough content and even more importantly an incredible experience in both visuals and audio.

Playing this game in the dark with a good pair of ear covering headphones with good bass, in the glow of the screen, with the music pounding against the eardrums is quite the experience indeed. It is also easy to imagine it being magnified by a good screen to dock the Switch too with very dark blacks, such as an OLED screen, with the neon colours flashing against the retina. The game itself warns not to do it because it could be seizure inducing, but there are certainly few trippy experiences like those. It ranks very high in that regard and gets very close to the likes or Rez for example.

Screenshot for Octahedron: Transfixed Edition on Nintendo Switch

Indeed, the music itself plays into the gameplay of the game as certain elements of the scenery can be seen reacting to the beat of the music which itself changes seamlessly as progress is made through the vertical shafts of each stage. Generators that pump out environmental hazards for example or dangerous looking lasers that rotate around a platform that has to be stood on to progress. Those can be seen moving or pumping out stuff in rhythm with the beat, and said beat can slow down or speed up depending on where in the stage the player is... or what part of the music track is being played at that moment. The music itself and how it plays with the gameplay reminded heavily of Bit.Trip Beat, while playing this for the sake of this review.

Octahedron is then a superb psychedelic experience that is mesmerizing to look at and to listen to. The visual impact is hard to overstate, and it is all coated in a scanline effect that adapts itself to the resolution in use in docked or portable mode to ensure the best effect possible in both, something that can't be said about some bigger budget projects like Sonic Mania, where the effect does not scale at all depending on which mode the Switch is running in. The impact of Octahedron would not be possible at all without excellent performance, though, as any hiccup would distract from what's on display and bring back player to the harsh reality.

Thankfully, even on the humble Switch hardware, things are top notch in that regard. Octahedron: Transfixed Edition runs at 1080p and 60fps in docked mode, and 720p and 60fps in portable mode, while frame-rate is a perfect lock in both use-cases. The nature of the presentation may leave some to wonder how it could be any different, with this being a mostly 2D game by nature, however there is more to consider. This game uses lots of taxing effects to achieve its visual design and, on other platforms, combined 2D and 3D elements to do so.

Screenshot for Octahedron: Transfixed Edition on Nintendo Switch

From the mouth of the developer himself, in porting the game to Switch, performance was initially way slower, and a whole lot of changes had to be made to bring performance back to an acceptable level, including replacing any 3D assets with pre-baked, pre-rendered 2D sprites, not too dissimilar from the method used for '90s games such as Donkey Kong Country in fact, but captured at 60fps and mixing together randomised movements, such as for the octahedral head of the protagonist, or the 8 pieces of the octahedron scattered throughout stages for example. Side by side comparisons however show no visible difference with other versions of the game, which goes to show that there is far more than meets the eye going into the making of such fabulous looking pieces of software. Such a considerable effort to treat Switch owners to the same end result was commendable indeed to deserve mention.

It is therefore a very cohesive package on the whole that does not really suffer from any faults per say. Octahedron is indeed a title that one can take a glance at and find themselves still looking at five minutes later without understanding why, but when it comes down to taking the controller and playing it, especially in the later stages... a sense of frustration at the ramping difficulty can and will likely appear in players who were expecting more of a trippy, but laid back romp. It all comes down to what kind of player the person in control is.

Octahedron is never unfair, but it can be extremely challenging indeed and depending on tastes, that can be either welcomed as a challenge that has to be overcome or something deterring from what's otherwise a transcendent universe. This is not a fault, it's a design choice that just means some will like it no matter what while others will like the first few worlds but feel a bit disheartened midway through, which is a shame since the whole experience is worth sitting through.

Screenshot for Octahedron: Transfixed Edition on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Octahedron: Transfixed Edition is a brilliantly realised visual and audible artistic creation that demanded a lot of effort to bring to Switch, while preserving perfect performance in both modes. It is a resounding success on that front. Gameplay is also extremely tight and responsive, and the concept itself is addicting... in small doses. Difficulty ramps up very quickly, indeed to the point of becoming near frustrating by the middle of the adventure, which puts it in a category of "aggravating" but great games such as Super Meat Boy, which is not for everybody... albeit a lot prettier to look at and pleasant to listen to. That it was all achieved solely by one man, including the arduous porting effort, makes it even more impressive!

Developer

Demimonde

Publisher

Square Enix

Genre

Action

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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