“If only all budget titles were this good”
“There is a certain breed of gamer out there who eats up anything Japanese.Ã‚Â Octomania is just such a feast, overflowing with hyper-cute anime characters, a storyline that revolves around the Japanese dish takoyaki (fried octopus), and hilariously terrible voice acting. The puzzle gameplay, also quirky, is different enough to engage fans of the genre, but lacks the addictive qualities of a truly great puzzle game. The real draw here is the colorful characters and presentation, for those that can appreciate Japanese wackiness.
The object of the game is to clear octopi from your board. The play area is divided into squares, and you control a 4×4 cursor. When you place the cursor on top of octopi they can be rotated either clockwise or counter-clockwise. There are grills scattered about the board requiring a certain amount of the cephalopods. The goal is to maneuver the minimum amount of them onto a grill and begin frying them up — creating a chain reaction that will remove them from the playing field. While they are cooking, more octopi can be added to the chain for big combos.
The early stages are quite simple, but before long you’ll have to think fast or else your screen will be filled and it’ll be game over. Most of the modes in Octomania pit you against another player, either human or AI. As you create chains you’ll send sea urchins over to the other side, blocking their playing field. Urchins can be added to a chain, but they can’t be thrown onto a grill on their own. If you create a combo of at least 10 octopi your character will perform a pretty slick attack sequence.
There are 11 characters to choose from, several of which need to be unlocked. Who you choose determines which part of the story you follow. It’s all ridiculous, none of it makes any sense, and I love it. Listening to super deformed characters talk nonsense with horrendous voice acting is actually my idea of a good time. I imagine publisher Conspiracy just grabbed whoever was in the office one day to record the game’s dialogue. Who you play as also determines your special “diamond attack.” As you play, a diamond meter will be filled, resulting in a gem thrown on the playing field. Add it to a chain and you’ll unleash a variety of helpful attacks.
As you play your characters will dance around on top of the screen, making funny remarks and throwing attacks at each other. Octomania was developed by the makers of Puyo Puyo, and the games unfold in a similar manner: select a character, watch a crazy cut scene with your opponent, battle, then move to the next crazy foe.
The game defaults to pointer control, but the very first thing you’ll want to do when you pop your Octomania disc in is change this setting to D-pad control. Playing by pointing is imprecise, and doesn’t allow you to keep up with the flood of sea creatures filling up your screen.
Octomania is easy on the eyes, sporting beautiful, hand-drawn anime artwork. The character designs are varied, but they’re all adorable. The backgrounds look great, as well, though you don’t have much time to notice them while furiously trying to cook away your octopi. The music, while inoffensive, gets pretty repetitive.
There are a variety of multiplayer modes on offer. Two cooks can go head to head, or up to four players can pair up and compete cooperatively. You can even recruit a friend to come along and help you out in story mode. The co-op modes are interesting, but it gets too crowded and confusing to really be helpful. Internet play is available for two players over the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection service, which I’m happy to report works perfectly.
It’s not gonna be everyone’s cup of green tea, but I really like Octomania. As a puzzle game, it’s just original enough to be engaging and offer a new challenge. But it’s the artwork, the zany characters, and the “so bad it’s good” voice acting that keep me playing. Each character has their own story to discover and voice track to laugh at. There’s nothing else like it on the Wii, and the $20 price tag seals the deal. If you’re a puzzle fan, definitely give Octomania a look. But if you consider yourself otaku, this is a must-buy.