Rapping Trees with rainbow fros can’t even save this game.
Apparently, there is trouble in the land of Lonronpia and you are charged with bringing order back. Octopi have overrun this world, due to the shoddy spell work of Kari who was simply trying to summon her favorite treat. Naturally, none of this really matters as it is all a big excuse for a puzzle game based around eliminating octopi from the world.
Octomania is a puzzle game with a very simple premise: move octopi of the same color onto the various grills that are located at random spots on the screen. In the middle of each grill, a number is prominently displayed, this represents the number of identical colored octopi which must be placed on the grill in order to eliminate it and the octopi alike. Upon destruction of the group of octopi and the grill, a gaseous substance is released in its place. Other octopi of the same color can be placed against the substance to be destroyed as well, further expanding the gaseous remainder. Performing this move will begin a combo chain which will boost your point tally. Naturally when the screen is filled, at the count of three, the bout will end.
Two different control schemes are available. The default option features use of the IR capabilities of the Wii Remote, the secondary allows you to hold your Wii Remote on its side a la the NES controller. In either case, you control a 2x2 grid on the screen that allows you to rotate any objects contained within it clockwise or counterclockwise. A similar mechanic was featured in the Japan only title No No No Puzzle Chailien and proves to be an interesting way to control the action on the screen once you acclimate yourself to the mechanic. Reconfiguring your brain to think in clockwise/counterclockwise can take a while to get used to, and even longer to master, giving the game a definite learning curve. Playing the game with the default control scheme won’t help you much either. Pointing at the screen to move the 2x2 grid around is clunky and ineffective for the blisteringly fast pace that matches tend to move at on higher difficulty settings. After a few matches, using the D-Pad and the 1 and 2 buttons on the Wii Remote proved to be absolutely necessary to remain competitive.
Essentially, Octomania only offers two unique gameplay modes: Endless Mode and Battle Mode. Battle Mode is used for the majority of the game, including the Nintendo WiFi Connection and Adventure Mode.
Adventure Mode simply follows the shallow story line of the game, stringing together Battle Mode type matches while mixing in some of the worst voice acting since House of the Dead 2. Battle Mode will pit you against an opponent where you try to create combos to fill up your opponent's screen with sea urchins and keep yours as tidy as possible. Sea urchins can only be destroyed by moving them next to the gas created after an octopi grill has been filled. This will not contribute to your combo tally, but merely rid your screen of the unwanted excess. To its credit this mode tends to be good frantic fun when you are in the full swing of battling. Unfortunately, you can lose the match without a moment's notice if your opponent happens to have the right octopi land on the screen in the right places. All of a sudden, regardless of how well you have played for the match, sea urchins will rain down upon you, completely burying you and eliminating all possibilities of winning. Other situations could cause you to dominate your opponent so badly that octopi will fall too slowly and you won’t even have the opportunity to complete a single grill, essentially making you a sitting duck.
One would naturally assume that Endless Mode would fix these problems by removing your pesky opponent, however it simply creates new ones. Endless mode is simple because you are no longer battling the constant onslaught of falling sea urchins. Here you can take your time in equipping each grill with the needed number of octopi, easily making combos and removing octopi. The mode is truly endless because losing takes forever.
Octomania is not by any stretch a terrible game. It is a very lightly featured game with absolutely no frills and a decently fun battle mode that can provide a nice experience at times. However hindrances with the core formula tend to get in the way at times, and even the decent core concept of the game wears thin after no time at all. Even at the value price it is hard to recommend Octomania to even a puzzle game fan. The title would’ve been an ideal fit for Nintendo’s upcoming WiiWare service at an even lower price point.