Oh Hi! Octopi! offers an interesting rethinking on color-matching gameplay

The fine folks at kode80 know a thing or two about scratching the nostalgia itch; their earlier Gameboy-inspired release 1-bit Ninja more than proved that.  Now the developer is back with a brand new iOS title, and while it might look like the darling love child of Bubble Bobble and Donkey Kong, Oh Hi! Octopi! plays unlike anything we’ve ever seen before.

While the game may look like another platformer at first glance, Oh Hi! Octopi! is living proof that looks can be deceiving.  Despite what the screens may tell you, Octopi is kode80’s attempt to reinvent the color-matching genre.  Kind of.

Players will control a hammer-happy hero that can move left and right, swinging his trusty mallet as he goes.  But while he can stun octopi of various color with a swift smash, that’s not really the focus of the game. The focus of the game is one tiny nail that’s set in the middle of the screen. 

Hammering it will produce a bubble, and in that bubble will be a paint drop.  You’ll want to tap that bubble in the direction of like-colored octopi to make them drop off the screen.  The catch?  If it hits and off-color octopus, the demon sea creature will double itself.  And you’ll find that hitting off-colored octopi is going to happen more often than not, so you’ll quickly be swimming in a sea of them, so to speak.

As you progress through rounds, the octopi move a bit quicker and your options for defeating them grow a bit larger.  Some bubbles, for example, will contain bombs to help you clear a large section of any-colored octopi.  It’s that sort of “bigger challenge/bigger options” growth that most games have, and as usual, it’s a welcome design choice here.

But while the game presents an interesting concept, the execution feels a little pedestrian.  Things move fairly slow for the first little while – so slow that it’s hard to really feel that engaged by it.  And even when the pace picks up and the screen gets crowded with octopi, it’s never really that hard to keep plugging away at it.  Touching an octopi will kill you, but not if you’ve stunned them first – and stunning them is as simple as walking in their direction with your hammer swinging.

Oh Hi! Octopi!

On the flipside, getting a paint bubble to touch a matching octopus is an exercise in futility.  You can whack the bubble in the direction you want, but really, you’re either going to see it float into the wrong colored adversary, or magically make its way to where you’re hoping it will go.  Unless the octopus you want to destroy is right beside you, getting the bubble where you want it to go is a total crapshoot.

All of this being said, there’s a part of me that feels like I’m somehow missing something.  When watching the trailer, you’ll see the little hero nearly organize the opposing octopi into colored groups and do away with them with ease.  I never managed to find that ease, nor could I manage to sort the octopi so neatly by color.

With a great presentation, 2-button simplicity, and an interesting concept, Oh Hi! Octopi! seems like a game that should have fired on all cylinders.  But the pieces that make it so neat on paper just don’t come together in the final product as tightly as we would have liked.  If the game were as simple as it looked in the trailer, I think Oh Hi! Octopi! would have been a much more enjoyable experience.  As it stands, though, it’s an interesting experiment in rethinking color-matching games – but not much more.