Octodad: Dadliest Catch – PC
Platform: PC (Steam)
Developer: Young Horses
Publisher: Young Horses
Release Date: January 30, 2014
Nerd Rating: 7 out of 10
Reviewed by The Watchman
On the surface, you wouldn’t think that a game about a suburban father living life and completing mundane, everyday tasks like mowing the lawn, making breakfast for the kids, or grocery shopping would sound like the most appealing place to spend both your time and money. However, what if that seemingly everyday husband and father of two was actually an octopus disguised as a human? Well, now we have something interesting, don’t we?
Octodad: Dadliest Catch is that story. It’s the tale of an octopus who masquerades as a human, and now lives on the land maintaining his secret identity, not only from society at large, but also from his wife and children. No one around Octodad suspects his fishy heritage. Instead, they view him as an average, albeit clumsy Joe. The only one that knows the true species of Octodad is an obsessively crazed chef who has devoted his life to relentlessly hunting down our hero in an attempt to expose Octodad’s secret, and maybe cook him for dinner.
It’s a wonderfully offbeat premise that succeeds because of its laid back atmosphere and humor, as well as an inventive control scheme.
The gameplay, and subsequently the challenge of completing Octodad’s puzzles and tasks, is centered around the control of Octodad. The player has to independently manipulate Octodad’s different limbs. So for example, making Octodad walk requires you to use one of the trigger buttons on your controller (A controller is a must if you’re playing the PC version) corresponding to to the leg you want to move. The controller’s thumbstick is then used to guide the leg to where it wants to go. Finally, the process is repeated using the trigger button corresponding to his other leg, and voila! You are a walking Octopus!
Manipulation of objects in the game requires you to use the right thumbstick to move his “arm” around. As his arm approaches different objects, they become highlighted letting you know you can interact with them. Those objects can be picked up using the right shoulder button. It’s difficult to comprehend Octodad’s controls on paper, and yes, it does take a lot of time to get used to even with a controller in your hand. The controls are intentionally set up to make Octodad’s movements wobbly and awkward, but then that’s kind of the point of the game. Octodad is supposed to be clumsy. It wouldn’t make much sense in the context of the game’s reality if he moved around with the grace with which Mario navigates his 3-D worlds. So in keeping with the concept of moving an Octopus disguised as a human around in a human world, the control scheme is actually quite brilliant.
And it is this brilliance of the controls, along with the quirky circumstances that make those seemingly mundane tasks like grilling hamburgers or making your way up an escalator, into an actually compelling experience.
Octodad is not keen of having his true identity revealed to the world. A meter at the bottom of the screen keeps track of how much attention you are attracting to yourself from the various humans in the level. Too much carelessness knocking into someone, or inadvertently collapsing a supermarket display will arouse too much suspicion, and blow your cover.
There is no combat in Octodad, and no real enemies to defeat besides the crazy chef who acts as the game’s antagonist. There is a nice bit of variety to the different chapters. Stealth elements come into play as Octodad tries to sneak past marine biologists (who can spot a fish anywhere) as well a section with Chuck-E-Cheese style amusement games that you have to beat in order to win prizes for your wife. There are also a couple of good chase sequences that will put your ability to get Octodad around quickly to the test. There are also the obligatory in-game “achievements” to unlock, and a number of collectible, and stylish ties (always the perfect gift for any dad. Octo or otherwise) hidden throughout each level for the completionists out there.
Octodad does have a few minor flaws though.
One area that caused some difficulty was the lack of camera control. The team at Young Horses did an overall good job of keeping the camera in an acceptable position, but there were one or two instances where the camera was in an odd spot. However, I totally understand that given the complexities of Octodad’s control mechanism, adding camera controls as another layer on top of everything would have been too much.
There was also some frustration that stemmed from getting Octodad stuck. This only happened on one level, where he was trying to navigate through a pitch black area with only a lantern as a light source. His frightened daughter was following close behind and there were a couple of times where I would get Octodad against a wall, and then the daughter would get right behind me and pin me in, unable to move anywhere, thus requiring a restart. Gaaaah! Annoying.
The only other issue that I had , and this is more of a compliment, is that the game is really short. I completed the story in just a little over three hours of in-game time. I enjoyed the characters and the reality of the world they lived in enough that I wanted there to be more.
In the end, Octodad presents a charmingly unique premise, coupled with a very innovative gameplay mechanic to present a title with a lovable eccentricity that is most definitely an appealing place to spend some of your time and money.
Octodad is also available on PS4!
Nerd Rating: 7/10
Reviewed by The Watchman
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