At the back end of last year, in our most anticipated of 2014 feature, I picked Octodad: Dadliest Catch as my most anticipated game; I chose it for good reason. I got to go hands-on with it at a PlayStation event in Dublin and to say I came away splitting my sides with laughter is a serious understatement. Octodad’s blend of ridiculous situational humour and wacky, unique mechanics were incredibly funny. It was something I hadn’t really experienced before, and the demo left me wanting more.
Fast forward to January 2014, and the full game is here to play on the PC – with a PlayStation 4 release aiming for March. Despite my love of the demo I played and how much I championed the game, I always had a sort of niggling feeling that it might not translate well into being a full game. Could developers Young Horses create enough interesting and unique scenarios to make the game fun the entire way through, not just in a short segment. I’m happy to say yes, they have absolutely done that.
So what’s Octodad all about then? Dadliest Catch follows the titular main character, Octodad, through various scenarios during a day that will shake his family to the core. He’s a normal guy, except for the whole “being a cephalopod” thing he has going on. He enjoys his coffee, he has a wife and two kids, and he wears a suit, just like a respectable working dad. On this particular day, however, his wife wants to go to the aquarium, for work purposes. Being a free octopus (in disguise), Octodad isn’t a fan of aquariums. As one might expect from a game based around this premise, hilarity quickly ensues.
I should preface this by saying that their success is partly due to the game’s length. I finished Dadliest Catch in just over two hours, well the story at least. There are other modes to keep you going afterwards, as well as collectibles, but we’ll get to that in a bit. The main point is that Dadliest Catch is not a long game, but that’s okay. Just like other great downloadable games like Journey and Limbo, it never outstays its welcome, however nor does it leave you feeling like you’ve been shortchanged. It’s the perfect length.
Who’s that man with the three-piece suit
You’ll control Octodad as he goes through his day, from coffee in the morning, chores and grocery shopping in the afternoon, to learning about kelp in the aquarium and more. And by control him, I mean you’ll control him to the degree of moving his legs and arms individually. Octodad’s control scheme is one of the most hilarious aspects of it, and despite how bad you might be, you’ll still enjoy yourself immensely. Climbing boxes of soda cans and aquarium playgrounds will have you cursing at the screen while simultaneously grinning from ear to ear. Not to mention the frozen pizza freezers…
For my first playthrough, I used a DualShock 4 (which is fully supported, by the way) and control was precise, awkward, tight and ridiculous all at the same time. You’ll control Octodad’s legs with the triggers, with the analogue sticks controlling height and position. Not holding any analogue sticks will allow you to control his arm, with R1 allowing you to grab and manipulate objects. Learning how to fluidly control all his limbs will allow you to solve puzzles with little hassle, while also feeling very rewarding as you master his tricky movements.
The comedy isn’t just in the controls, however. Octodad: Dadliest Catch is an incredibly well-written, clever and hilarious game. Aside from the titular Octodad, his daughter Stacy was a real highlight and stole the show for me, with great voice acting and hilarious lines to go with it. Octodad’s voice work is essentially a load of globs and gargles, with the subtitles giving a hint as to the expressions he’s trying to convey. I’ll admit, “blurbs of putting his game face on” really got me.
Nobody suspects a thing
It’s also a pretty game. Granted, the art style isn’t designed to be the most graphically impressive in the world, but it does a good job of converting the type of style the game is going for, while also looking really clean and crisp. Animation is fantastic, with Octodad himself of course being the stand-out here. It’s creepy and super-exaggerated, but I love how he animates when he walks. Even facial expressions are really well done.
Similarly, sound design is generally good. The music fits the mood, but it’s not a soundtrack you’re going to remember really. Except, that is, for the catchy main theme, which I still hum to myself every now and again. Voice acting is very impressive, again with the aforementioned Stacy being the stand-out from a voice perspective. His wife and son do a great job too, but just not to the extent of the daughter.
Extras include Steam workshop support, where players will be able to create all sorts of user-generated content for the game, and collectible ties. There are three ties to collect in each level, some hidden in plain sight and require some traversal to get, others hidden behind objects and the like. And as an added touch, you can choose which tie you want Octodad to wear. How lovely.
I really, really enjoyed my time with Octodad: Dadliest Catch. It is short, although not too short, and some of the later levels aren’t quite as fun as the early ones. The last boss in particular is not a very fun fight/level. However, the combination of hilarious writing, extremely funny controls and just general fun I had with the game make it more than worth your time. Enjoy it, in this the Year of Octodad.