Octomania – WII – Review

Since 1989, handhelds have ruled the puzzle game
market. You might have expected that to change with Wii and PS3’s
motion-sensing controllers, which could open the door for some very unique
puzzle experiences. But that hasn’t been the reality, as developers have
allowed Nintendo DS and PSP to hog all the fun.

Octomania is one of the few puzzlers that won’t be
making its way to a handheld (not yet at least). Developed for Wii, Octomania
tells the lighthearted story of a happy girl in an anime world. Watching the
characters interact is like watching Pokemon before Pikachu said goodbye: you
just know it’s going to end with cheers and smiles. This silly and often
pointless addition was likely made for the Japanese audience, who may
appreciate this sort of thing. Most other gamers, however, will want to skip
ahead to the puzzles.


Tetris Attack may be 12-years old, but its
cursor-based controls have only recently appeared in other titles. Octomania
is one such game. It spins the idea by allowing you to rotate the colored
pieces, called Octopi, four ways in a clockwise formation. If this sounds an
awful lot like Puzzle Guzzle, hang in there. Octomania has its own way of
avoiding the clone game stigma.

Rather than eliminating pieces by traditional
color matching or by sealing up the edges of each piece, players will have to
first move the pieces into an elimination zone. These square zones are large
enough to hold eight Octopi (your rotation cursor can hold four). Each zone
has a number in its center, ranging from 2 to 8, indicating how many pieces
must be brought into the zone before an elimination can occur. The pieces must
be of the same color, of course. But their elimination is not the end of your

When enough pieces are brought into the zone,
they begin to evaporate. If you attach another piece of the same color to the
evaporating cluster, that new piece will start to evaporate as well, causing a
"hit" against your human or AI-controlled opponent. Link 10 pieces to an
evaporation cluster and you’ll strike your opponent with a combo-breaking
assault. Spiky gray-colored pieces will fall onto your opponent’s playing
field, and any hit combo that the player had going will be broken. Gray pieces
can only be eliminated by attaching them to an evaporation cluster. Doing so
will not earn you extra points or cause additional pieces to fall on your
opponent. It will only save your life.


Lives are not important in this game, and not
just because the single-player modes offer unlimited continues. During play
you’ll begin to fill the Diamond Meter, a handy power-up feature that lets you
change every piece to the same color. If your meter is half full and you die,
you’ll automatically receive a diamond just for choosing to continue. Octopi
drop on random locations. If you wait for the screen to fill before activating
the diamond, you’ll have a full arsenal to use against your opponent. Twenty,
30, and 40-hit combos are very possible. When every piece becomes the same
color, your chance of losing is next to 0% – the same chance your opponent has
of winning.

On the single-player front, Easy mode was taken
out instantly. Intermediate held me back a few minutes. I died a couple of
times and prevailed before the half hour was up. Advanced mode was less
difficult because I now understood what it took to win – and how the game
allows you to cheat by awarding diamonds after death. This mode was finished
quickly as well.


After that, Octomania appears to offer
additional ways to play. Arcade mode encompasses the content, including the
story, explained in this review. It also offers an endless mode, a puzzle game
staple. Then you go over to Original mode expecting something different. Nope
… it’s the same thing but listed under a different name. There are slight
differences in the diamond effects, etc., but it doesn’t change the game
dramatically, or even enough to notice. Once you’re through the story mode,
there isn’t much to keep you coming back.

Review Scoring Details for Octomania

Gameplay: 6.0
Octomania is initially fun but doesn’t offer more than an ounce of replay

Graphics: 4.0
Cutesy and retro anime RPG-style effects.

Sound: 4.0
Characters recite silly dialogue with each "hit" in a combo. It might sound
like a good idea the first time you hear it, but how about the 10th time? Or the
20th? Not so good.

Difficulty: Easy
You can finish Octomania in less time than it takes to watch one period in
the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Concept: 6.0
Is this a tech demo/experiment for a bigger game? I hope so. Because what we
have here just isn’t enough.

Multiplayer: 5.0
The player with the diamond is all but guaranteed to win, making the
competition too one-sided to feel truly competitive.

Overall: 6.0
At $20, Octomania doesn’t ask too much of its buyer. Unfortunately, you
can’t ask much of it either. Local and Wi-Fi multiplayer modes allow you to
battle a friend across the room or across the country. But while multiplayer is
usually the strength of a puzzle game, it doesn’t do much for this one.
Octomania is fun but there isn’t enough to it. Align some Octopi, form combos,