DEVELOPER Young Horses / PUBLISHER Young Horses / WEBSITE www.octodadgame.com
In one the strangest game premises we’ve encountered in a long time, Octodad: Dadliest catch casts you as an Octopus masquerading as a human, trying to live a peaceful suburban life. Despite plainly being an Octopus wearing a suit, Octodad’s ruse has so far gone unnoticed, to the point where he’s married and has fathered two regular human children. Yet what starts out as a normal day for Octodad quickly becomes anything but, as a trip to the aquarium and an obsessive sushi chef threaten to obliterate the life he’s built for himself.
For the first couple of hours, Dadliest Catch executes its vision superbly. You control Octodad’s limbs individually, and attempt to complete everyday chores using his wobbly tentacles, without raising suspicion, by destroying everything in sight like a squishy wrecking ball. Simple tasks such as making a cup of coffee and mowing the lawn are made both challenging and amusing as Octodad stumbles around, contorting into all manner of strange shapes, and grunting with surprise and frustration as he struggles to accomplish his goals.
Developer Young Horses accentuates the game’s comedy in various ways. The emergent slapstick of controlling Octodad is helped along by conveniently placed balls and banana skins, and an extra layer of comedy comes from the sharply written script, which plays on the family’s sheer obliviousness to Octodad’s true identity. His children provide the best lines, slicing like surgeons through social conventions with their seemingly innocent observations.
The challenges Octodad faces become gradually more ridiculous, as he moves from his home to the supermarket and then to the aquarium, which is more like a theme park, with various rides and attractions that test Octodad’s coping mechanisms and the strength of your diaphragm to the limit. In ‘World of Kelp’ he must climb the world’s largest and most elaborate jungle gym, while in the Deep Ocean section, Octodad has to contend with dance floors and escalators in order to escort his daughter through the dark.
Up to this point, the game’s difficulty is fairly well judged.
Unfortunately, though, Young Horses then takes the challenge one step too far, and the final third of Octodad’s humour can’t mitigate the frustration that creeps into play.
This concluding hour includes multiple stealth sections that require timing, speed and delicate balancing, none of which Octodad is any good at executing. Consequently, the game transforms from a small but delightfully silly sandbox into the world’s worst stealth game. The fun in Octodad emerges from experimenting with the world around you using Octodad’s unpredictable movements. When it switches to a broadly linear structure in which it’s easy to fail, the fun is greatly diminished.
Still, the witty writing and uplifting ending just about succeed in carrying Dadliest Catch through this disappointing third act. It’s a unique, silly and endearing game. Although it can’t sustain the same level of quality through its fairly modest length, it will nevertheless stick in your mind like a squid to a wet window.