Available On: XBLIG
Co-Op Modes: Local and Online
Demo w/ Co-Op Available: No
Depending on who you ask, Geometry Wars has pretty much become the definitive twin-stick shooter experience. But even if you are one of those folks that won’t even look at another shooter since you played Geometry Wars, you may want to at least give Octagon a bit of a peek as it has a few interesting mechanics to it that make it worth playing, especially cooperatively.
To be fair, Octagon isn’t actually a twin-stick shooter. One stick controls your ship’s movement and firing direction, the other stick doesn’t do anything at all. Firing bullets is, instead, relegated to the face buttons. The reason for this shift is that the enemy ships you face in Octagon are only vulnerable to attacks from like-colored bullets, i.e., red ships can only be defeated by shooting them with red bullets, which are fired by pressing the B button on the 360 gamepad. Firing single bullets isn’t your only option, however, as holding down one of the fire buttons creates a charged blast of the corresponding color. This souped up color bullet will actually bounce around the game field (which is appropriately shaped like an octagon) for a bit before it dissipates, wiping out any enemy ships that get in its way. Best of all, taking out ships in this fashion starts a combo chain, which is responsible for charging up your bomb meter so you can unleash a screen clearing attack at just the right moment.
So what’s to stop you from just firing these all the time, you may be wondering? Well, one hit from an enemy ship doesn’t equal instant kill in Octagon. Instead, you have an energy meter that is depleted when you’re hit by an enemy ship or when you use a charged-up shot. The meter does recharge over time, but if you’re hit by another ship when the meter’s at 0, then it’s game over. If you’re playing Octagon with a friend (and why wouldn’t you?) then this meter is shared by both players and if one person snuffs it, it’s game over for everyone. This is where some really interesting co-op strategies come into play.
As you fire more and more bullets of a certain color, your ship changes to that same color and becomes a kind of beacon for all ships of that color. Thus, if you’re in a streak of taking out some green ships, your own ship will turn green and those green ships that were once randomly bouncing around suddenly start heading straight for you. Some of the ships are pretty small so you can easily get swarmed and taken out if you’re not careful. With a partner along, there’s a kind of balance to strike, then, between who’s attracting and who’s shooting, which will then cause them to attract as well. This shift back and forth between the players is a very engaging mechanic and has lead to some very close calls a couple of times when I’ve been playing.
While these color-coordinated attack methods may leave you feeling a bit like you’re playing a fancier version of Simon, Octagon is certainly not your standard co-op shooter. Any shooter fan out there looking to expand his or her library should certainly take Octagon for a spin.
Octagon is For: Shooter fans that enjoy a twist to the usual bullet-storm craziness
The Co-Op Experience: Use the color attraction mechanic to pull enemies away from a buddy in need, and keep an eye on your energy gauge to make sure you don’t spoil it for you both