Published on October 10th, 2013 | by Jason Schneider0
The Secrets of Space Octopuses Review
What has eight arms, annoying lasers and can fly? The answer, according to Midgar Studio, is a space octopus. The Secret of Space Octopuses is a strange, quirky (and often buggy) platformer with a big selection of puzzles and an even longer list of technical frustrations. Just make sure you’re prepared to replay the same sections over and over.
The game’s story fell a little flat for me. It opens with you (a young boy) ending up on an alien planet, completely unaware of your surroundings. You find some spare mechanical parts and piece together a “battle suit” of sorts. You’re able to navigate this strange world by using this Metroid Prime-esque armor: jumping, crushing and punching your way to victory (even if the story doesn’t really set up that victory very well).
The controls are pretty familiar. There’s a virtual D-pad on the bottom left corner of the screen and a series of action buttons on the bottom-right (jump, punch and “absorb” for collecting materials—I’ll get to that later). As a side note, don’t plan on playing this game on a tablet as I did. As with most games designed for smaller screens, the controls were too large and skewed too far toward the middle of the screen. It’s a seemingly simple problem that very quickly leads to finger fatigue.
And finally, let’s talk mechanics. The general premise of the game is to traverse various parts of this alien planet, scaling platforms, hopping between walls and punching enemies (aka gloating, mechanically assisted alien octopuses). The puzzles come in the form of tricky obstacles that require creative solutions using materials found throughout the world. It’s this latter aspect of the game that held the most promise for me. You use your “absorb” function to grab rocks, metal objects and other powerups from your surrounding world. You’re then required to use these to solve puzzles (i.e. stacking metal boxes so you can jump high enough to get over that just-out-of-reach ledge). And naturally your enemies keep getting bigger, tougher and better-equipped. The game’s visuals left a lot to be desired, as most of the movement caused major lag. Taking place in an alien universe, there was a lot of room for rich colors and smooth graphics. But, this game’s look and feel played a lot more like a cross between Super NES and N64 (and I don’t mean that in a good way).
In short, the game misfires in a lot of ways. The most obvious among these is probably its physics. Most platformers employ a gravity system that’s easy to get acclimated to. This one feels very shaky and floaty. I often found the puzzles that were intended to be the trickiest were easier than, say, simply jumping between two platforms. This made for a lot of frustration (plus a ton of deaths, and thus a ton of unnecessary replays).
Beyond this, the fundamental storyline of the game (something I can usually look past) seemed to impede the progress of the plot rather than add depth. This might be a result of the grammar errors and poor translations. Midgar Studios is a young French design firm, so English most likely isn’t the designers’ first language. Of course, with the abundance of international design companies developing for Android who have figured out how to translate their storylines, the “I’m not that great at English” excuse doesn’t really hold much water. In a story-based game, poor translation is no small hindrance, and I definitely got hung up.
To add more confusion I was constantly hung up by the glitch-filled twitchiness of the game. Granted, I think it’s one of the company’s first forays into full-length, story-based gaming. But, at the end of the day it’s a platformer. So, the onus is really on them to up the ante and make a simple format more vibrant. Give me an interesting story to latch on to. Give me some humor, something to empathize with the characters about. Anything. Instead, I received haphazard speech bubbles, game-slowing graphic swoops and no way to connect with the protagonist any more than the fact that I was controlling him.
So, what are the positives? In this case, the game succeeds in offering you the satisfaction of moving through colorful worlds with an exciting momentum. Years ago, I got addicted to an Xbox Live Arcade game called Splosion Man, and Space Octopuses alludes (albeit only slightly) to that style. So, to be fair, the platforming aspect of the game is, at times, pretty fun. You can bounce up walls, punch through enemies and obstacles (with satisfying “crunches”) and you can ultimately zoom over platforms in a fun, reckless frenzy. Sure, I died more than your average “careful” player, but with few story benchmarks, and even fewer reasons to linger on platforms, the fun comes in the platform-to-platform debauchery — slaying octopuses and leaping-and-bounding through this completely ridiculous world.
So, should you go download it? If you do, be aware that this is a game that’s pretty rough around the edges. The game studio is still young and this specific title, while fairly weak, hints at the makings of a stronger platformer. They’re not afraid to step out of the box and build on a simple concept. With some more time, and perhaps a stronger story, I can see these guys churning out a seriously epic arcade-style addiction. But as far as Octopuses is concerned, the not-so-compelling story, glitchy graphics and difficult physics make this game a pretty serious “miss.”
Is it Hardcore?
Summary: This spacey adventure combines sci-fi with quirky platforming, poor grammar and an awkward storyline. Get ready for a frustrating, yet mildly entertaining ride.