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Platform(s): PC
Genre: Action/Adventure
Developer: All Yes Good
Release Date: Feb. 8, 2018


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PC Review - 'Octogeddon'

by Cody Medellin on May 21, 2018 @ 12:45 a.m. PDT

Octogeddon is a semi-casual action strategy game where you play as a gigantic, enraged, mutating octopus bent on world destruction.

When it first arrived for the PC, Plants vs. Zombies was deceptive. The title looked nice but had a Flash animation style that people thought was cheap at the time, since most games that used it were simple affairs that were playable on websites. The premise of plants fighting the undead seemed silly, and the game was an even more dumbed-down take on the then-burgeoning tower defense genre. It seem like it would disappear from everyone's memory as soon as it appeared, but once people played it, they realized that the mix actually worked, and the game became a classic for all types of gamers. After the buyout of PopCap games by EA, creator George Fan went indie again, and after a game jam four years ago, he's back with a new development team and a new game idea in Octogeddon.

The premise is both dead simple and hilarious. You play as a giant octopus who loves spending his time on the internet, but he's also prone to fits of anger. Anything from seeing how octopus are used for sushi or seeing them lose in a kaiju fight are enough to get him steaming. Instead of stewing in his anger, though, he concocts a plan to go to the surface and destroy several precious landmarks as revenge for being the butt of ridicule.

Spanning six levels, the game splits that into three water stages and three land stages. In the water, you occupy the center of the screen and spin left and right as you try to line up your tentacles to knock out enemies that are trying to hit your head. After capping off the three water stages with a boss fight, you take to land and tumble toward buildings and other bosses with the same attack method. The only difference is that any tentacles on the ground do nothing, so they have to be free from the ground to be useful. Once a famous landmark like the Sydney Opera House or the Statue of Liberty is destroyed, you enter a bonus stage with different fish types to collect seashells before starting the process again with a new target in mind.

The simple premise is propped up by a few major gameplay mechanics. The first comes in the form of its weapon system:  the octopus arms. Despite being an octopus, you start the game with only two arms, which are effective in the first stage but leave you woefully underpowered past that initial encounter. Between stages, the money you collect from defeating enemies can be used to buy more limbs, but the cost for each appendage rises dramatically once you have six in your possession. You can also buy extra lives with the cash, but that's more expensive, so you can't exactly go on a life-buying spree. With the limbs being relatively weak in attack power, your money is really going to be spent on limb transformations.

As you beat each stage, you'll unlock DNA samples that let you transform your tentacles into something wildly different. They include melee-focused crab claws, venom-shooting snakes, penguins to temporarily freeze enemies, and a queen bee that fires off smaller worker bees. The octopus is always going to look weird, but the strategies for balancing melee and ranged attacks cannot be understated. Interestingly, the game sometimes forces you to come up with new strategies on the fly, as only a small sampling of DNA-infused tentacles are available for purchase after every stage. While there will be times when you'll never change your loadout because it's perfect, there will also be times when you might struggle since the weapon you want isn't there yet.

The other major game mechanic is that Octogeddon is a roguelike, though you can't tell at first glance. After all, you start the game with three lives like a classic arcade game, and there's no save system in place, so losing all those lives means restarting at the very beginning. When that happens, you lose your carefully crafted octopus and all of the money you earned in that run. However, you keep your shells, and that's where the roguelike aspect comes into play. In between playthroughs, you'll visit a shop run by a catfish, and the shop sells things like new DNA variations and the ability to start with more lives on your next run, Keep buying from the shop, and you gain the ability to start with more health as well. Like the seashells, all of the DNA augmentations gained in a run stay in your upgrade rotation.

Like the good ones in the genre, the drip feed of progress is what keeps you coming back, no matter how often you die. Even if you get unlucky with the enemy types in a particular run, you're always walking away either having made it one level further than before or getting just enough to obtain a new weapon or ability. Though slow, there's real progress being made, and it doesn't take long before you have an all-powerful octopus that makes the game a cakewalk. The fact that the grind is enjoyable due to the tight base mechanics is certainly a big plus for those just coming into the genre.

There's not much to the game as far as modes go. The campaign is only six levels long, and while the roguelike mechanics do well to hinder progress, the constant acquisition of new weapons and perks provides enough of a counterbalance that the only way to lose in the late game is through a long string of bad luck. Once you finally beat the campaign, you have an endless wave mode where you're competing for high scores against everyone else online. Aside from a gallery to check out cut scenes and descriptions of the weapons and enemies, that's about it.

Graphically, the game is what you would typically expect from a PopCap production, pre-EA buyout. The art style is reminiscent of a Flash game but with so much detail that few will mind. The game sports a rich breadth of colors, and everything animates well. The sound is similar to the graphics in that it's simple yet effective. There's a tiny handful of tracks that play throughout the game that range from guitar melodies to chiptune beats during boss fights. They're all excellent in that they sound perfect for the game and don't feel out of place, even though those tunes are repeated. The effects are also nice, as each bit feels significant, and the roar of the octopus when he gets hurt really grabs your attention.

Though it won't be in the hearts and minds of players like his previous creation was, George May's Octogeddon still demonstrates the power of a simple premise with a deep gameplay hook. The game is very easy to understand and easy for anyone to pick up and play thanks to the two-button control scheme. The sparse number of levels can hurt, but the roguelike mechanics keep things engaging and addicting well before you finally open up the endless wave mode. Whether you're a casual or more dedicated player, Octogeddon is worth checking out.

Score: 8.5/10

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