Octomania is a straightforward puzzler with a presentation that should seem instantly familiar to Puyo Puyo fans, featuring similar cutesy anime-style graphics, character-specific attacks, and somewhat humorous--though shallow--storylines. But unlike your average block buster, this game has you combining octopuses on a grill. It's not as tasty as it sounds, however, because Octomania dwells entirely in the shallows, and doesn't feature enough modes to keep you playing for long. Unlike it's squishy mascot, this game lacks legs.
The game opens in Lonronpia, where Kari the magician apprentice has accidentally summoned waves of octopi in an attempt to create her favorite snack. Octomania's 12 character choices consist of archetypes with a zany twist, such as a samurai crab and a rainbow afro-headed rapping spirit tree. Each character begins a quest to remove the octopi from Lonronpia by force, engaging in octo-battles en route to a demonic prince who is somehow the key to this marine catastrophe.
While sporting multiple characters is a nice bonus for any puzzle game, the shallow storylines and annoying voice-overs make Octomania's only redeeming quality its simplistic puzzle gameplay, which centers on manipulating a four-block cursor clockwise or counterclockwise to maneuver the colored octopi filling the screen onto numbered grills. Positioning the corresponding number of same-colored octopi on a grill turns the adorable squids into matching colored bubbles. You can, then, connect other octopi of that color to the bubbles to trigger a chain, which causes sea urchins to clutter your opponent's screen. Winning the game is as simple as flooding your opponent with sea urchins and octopi faster than he or she can chain them away, which is no small feat considering the speed with which octopi rain down your screen.
Though the mechanics may seem incredibly simple--even boring--Compile Heart added three character-specific features to enliven the experience, including specialty colors, combo attacks, and diamond effects. Specialty colors increase the number of sea urchins sent over from a chain that is based on a character's unique color. Combo attacks activate as your chaining progresses, and are followed by a short animation of your character pummeling your foe with sea urchins. Diamonds trigger a character's special ability once they're chained, such as Kari's urchin vanish, which turns all sea urchins and octopi on her grills into the same color. Though most diamond effects result in a quick victory, you have to earn a diamond by completing multiple chains, which keeps the gameplay from becoming too much of a breeze.
Octomania's primary mode--Original--boasts varying degrees of difficulty. You should be able to fly through both the easy and intermediate options in less than a half hour while incurring only a few continues. Octo-puzzle allows you to race through the story with one or two players, experiencing the weak plot from six different views as you work to unlock the other six characters. You can face off against friends in Octo-battle's four-player option or head to Original's "endless" offering, which is a basic survival mode that awards you a licensed rank for achieving so many points from combos and chains. Unfortunately, very little is done to differentiate Arcade, the game's other main mode, from Original. Like Original, Arcade includes a two-player mode, another bout of endless, and a quick romp through Lonronpia--except this time, you're unable to choose a character. Octomania does attempt to make up for its lack of depth by including Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection battles, but locating an opponent is probably the game's greatest challenge.
Adjusting to Octomania's initial control scheme comes in at a close second, though, with the game offering two simple options via the Wii Remote: pointer-style and sideways play. While pointer-style may appear the most natural and fitting option at first glance due to the four-block cursor you're given, sideways is much more precise and frees you from pointer-style's shaky, troublesome cursor. This is a great help when your octopi are overflowing and you need to quickly and precisely reposition your squids.
Octomania is a cute puzzle game complete with anime-style characters, simple background stills, and decent music, but these qualities fail to overshadow its severe lack of depth. Overall, Octomania is a fishy dish that won't have you coming back for seconds.