Octodad: Dadliest Catch for PSN, PC, OS X and Linux
Ok, yes, Octodad is very much a gimmick game. It’s all one big joke, and if you don’t fine that joke funny, you probably won’t get too much out of it. Good thing I did find it funny.
Octodad: Dadliest Catch is the story of a perfectly normal family man who lives a life of mundane suburban bliss. Except he hides a dark secret; he is secretly an octopus, and is utterly terrified of him family or the wider world discovering the truth. After fumbling his way through basic home chores, Octodad faces his biggest nightmare; a trip to the aquarium with his family.
Ok, so obviously Octodad is a comedy, and the concept is inherently ridiculous and absurd. There are plenty of laughs both in the script and the emergent gameplay. Octodad didn’t just make me laugh though; I also found it to be oddly moving. There’s something just so loveable and sympathetic about Octodad that he’s impossible not to care for. On a personal level, I’ve struggled with feelings of social awkwardness and anxiety about not fitting in my whole life, and Octodad captures these feelings brilliantly, albeit in an absurd way. There’s probably a bit of Octodad in all of us, and I imagine that this is a game which will mean a lot of different things to different people. Of course, for many people this will just be a silly game about an octopus and that’s just as valid an interpretation as any other!
So; the gameplay. Octodad probably fits into the new-fangled ‘fumblecore’ genre, although it’s a bit more accessible than games like QWOP or Surgeon Simulator. Both of Octodad’s ‘legs’ are controlled independently, with one limb used to manipulate the environment, picking up objects and throwing them around. It’s incredibly fiddly and awkward to control, which is exactly the point. The best game narratives are those where the gameplay actually reinforces the narrative rather than just existing alongside it, and Octodad definitely succeeds there. Basic tasks become impossibly difficult, as Octodad causes chaos around him. Too much chaos however and the ‘suspicion meter’ raises too high and you have to start again, but thankfully the humans of Octodad’s world are a credulous bunch. It can get quite frustration, but that’s all part of the fun. This is an oddly social game, with the most fun to be had in playing in a group and passing around the controller, celebrating each other’s achievements and punishing their failures.
Octodad is brilliantly expressive, and his family are immediately likeable and well voice acted. The music is also rather lovely, with the wonderfully silly theme song being the best piece. Octodad is simple, but drips charm, and is a well polished experience.
Now, this is far from a long game, and if bought at full price you might feel a little short changed. I got it on sale though, and found the whole thing to be deeply charming. Lots of people will not like this game at all, but if you have a taste for the absurd and a fair amount of patience, Octodad is absolutely worth a go.