Just keep spinning, just keep spinning…
This summer witnessed the transition of The HD Adventures of Rotating Octopus Character from humble PlayStation Mini to fully fledged title on the PlayStation Vita. In its jet-propelled leap to Sony’s handheld, the game also latched onto online leaderboards and trophy support, too. Originally released in 2011, Dakko Dakko’s quirky, intelligible title blends perfectly into the Vita’s indie milieu; what with its elevator pitch moniker and pacy yet accessible gameplay. It’s a notable design feature, and one which can largely be attributed to the title’s core mechanic: this particular octopus simply can’t stop spinning.
The game’s over-arching goal is therefore to control the eponymous cephalopod in his mission to rescue all of the baby octopi, which have been scattered across the earthly environment. It’s a clear-cut objective that is complimented by an inherently intuitive control scheme; reverse using square and leap by hitting X. And though this may sound rather straightforward at first, the fact that the Rotating Octopus Character – or ROC – is constantly in motion adds a fresh and challenging dynamic to the experience.
In the beginning, the game’s mechanisms has you springing from perpendicular lines and straight surfaces, however, as you progress, circular objects – such as trees and kitchen tables – are introduced that allow you to soar through the air diagonally to reach the off course octopi. Essentially, this engaging locomotion and the way in which you navigate through some of the earlier levels is akin to Frogger, and it feels as though the studio have cast an eye to Konami’s seminal platformer for inspiration.
As they are introduced to new worlds, players will be able to utilise parts of the environment to their advantage. The moving hippos, for example, are at once mobile shields and an impromptu means of transport, and add a new dynamic to specific levels. Each of the worlds themselves are divided into ten distinct stages, which you must complete with a limited number of lives in order to progress. Failing that, your quest begins from the first stage once again. It’s a stringency that adds a great, if at times frustrating sense of urgency to the latter levels of any given world. As such, without any set checkpoint to speak of – aside from the completion of an aforementioned stage – the game is arcade-like by design.
By whisking you off to destinations inspired by Egyptian deserts and Chinese restaurants, The HD Adventures of Rotating Octopus Character turns your Vita into an illustrious international passport. It’s a remarkable variety for a game of its stature, and each of these locales does a good job of capturing the essence of its respective context. For example, the various obstacles in the game – from volatile snakes to angry chefs – personify their geographical setting to great effect.
Water droplets are also scattered within these environments, which themselves act as the game’s supplementary collectibles and a health regenerator; by accumulating twenty of the droplets, you will gain an extra life. As the difficulty ramps up in the concluding worlds, though, you will find that these areas in particular offer more water droplets in and around their locations as a means of countering the sudden spike in difficulty. It’s a sound means of balancing the game without diluting the sense of accomplishment.
As you manoeuvre the hyper-kinetic ROC towards the final stages, Dakko Dakko’s puzzle title begins to reveal its true inspiration. From level designs reminiscent of Pac-Man to including the extra terrestrial ships from Space Invaders, the closing stages are a joy to play through and the studio have undoubtedly moulded a great sense of gaming legacy into the latter worlds. These references to its medium’s culture – a courteous nod to Metal Gear Solid is a case in point – coupled with overly intelligent level design, are what set it apart from the other garden-variety mobile titles within the platformer genre.
Much like a Russian doll, The HD Adventures of Rotating Octopus Character only reveals its residing complexity upon further investigation, which not only bestows the player with a sense of accomplishment, it also prevents Dakko Dakko’s gaming debut from simmering in mediocrity.
As I’ve previously mentioned, the game’s journey to the PlayStation Vita has brought with it the compatibility with the PSN’s online leaderboards; which become integral during the game’s secondary challenge mode. Using the same locales from the campaign only retrofitted with a more demanding timer, this mechanic provides gamers with a set achievement, represented by bronze, silver and gold stars – a feature that was arguably missed during the main campaign. What’s more, with instant access to the online leaderboards, the mode provides players with a tangible sense of competition from PlayStation’s online ether.
Ultimately, your impression of the game will largely be shaped by your own expectations. Personally, as a short, intuitive title, Dakko Dakko’s charming platformer is a rewarding genre piece that is not only challenging, but one that will have you yearning for the golden age of video games associated with the 70s and 80s. Though it may not stand alongside the PlayStation Vita’s pantheon of unmissable indies, The HD Adventures of Rotating Octopus Character is undoubtedly a fun timesink that rewards players for their perseverance.
This review is based on the PS Vita copy of the game, which was provided to us.
Don’t let the elevator pitch title fool you, The HD Adventures of Rotating Octopus Character channels the golden age of arcade gaming with its nostalgic aesthetic and accessible gameplay, making this a nifty, bite-sized addition to the Vita’s indie catalogue.