Your children scream for your attention, your wife demands you explain what’s gone wrong in your relationship, and all the while you struggle just to scan the box of frozen pizza you accidentally threw halfway across the grocery store when you let go of it too soon. Welcome to fatherhood—welcome to Octodad.
Octodad: Dadliest Catch is the sequel to student game/cult indie hit wherein players take command of an octopus masquerading as a suit-clad father, all without his family noticing. Regular tasks as pouring milk for your human son and daughter (don’t ask) or mowing the lawn (do ask) aren’t as easy as they should be, were a human doing these things. Players control each of Octodad’s individual limbs with amped up precision resulting a physics engine nightmare. Fortunately, that’s where half the fun of Octodad comes into play.
It’s easy to become frustrated with the controls outright when each trigger of the controller is used for lifting the respective leg and the two analog sticks manage the height and depth of Octodad’s arm movement. However, the unwieldy commands means that everything in the game becomes a challenge, and the result is almost always hilarious and rewarding. Just getting the hang of actually walking without knocking junk over feels like a major success in and of itself.
Of course, doing chores around the house wouldn’t be enough to carry a full fledged game, which is why Octodad: Dadliest Catch takes the mayhem to a variety of stages. From a hilariously catastrophic opening at a wedding to a trip to the world’s only indie-game based grocery store, no place is safe from Octodad’s destructive tentacles.
There is also a plot throughout the game involving the actual origins of Octodad and a crazed sushi chef who holds a vendetta against our fatherly hero. Throughout the course of the game, players will find themselves outrunning the chef in chase sequences and even utilizing stealth to evade the chef and knowledgeable marine biologists. While these moments do help to mix up the gameplay, they can feel awkward for asking new skills out of the players, especially when Octodad himself is already kinda confusing to control. I managed to bumble my way through the game’s major stealth section and I still don’t really know what I was actually supposed to do.
Overall, the only other main issue with the gameplay is the lack of direction in the stages sometimes. Your objective is always displayed on screen, but some of the stages can be a little hard to navigate, especially when sometimes, small mistakes may result making too big of a mess and being discovered by others nearby. Which is a shame, really, because all the little moments of the game are absolutely brilliant. Every single one of the mundane tasks are a joy to behold and leaves you wondering “what are they gonna make me do next?” When making a mess isn’t of concern either, it can be fun to explore the stages and interact with the world and find all the little easter eggs that developer Young Horses have strewn about.
Surprisingly, the strongest part of Octodad: Dadliest Catch is the game’s sense of humor. Not just in the gameplay (trust me, this whole game could’ve just been a room of vases and banana peels and it still would’ve been amazing) but actually in a lot of the writing. There’s even a subtle humor in the way the family interacts with Octodad as a regular family, especially when Octodad often responds, oddly specifically, with his own brand of burps and gurgles—which of course, everyone can understand.
The very same family also helps to give Octodad an adorable and sweet charm as well. As weird as it seems, I feel like there’s a message to Octodad and its gameplay. There’s the struggle of not quite knowing who we are or even how to suddenly do any of the tasks the real world presents us with, often times getting downright stressful (getting through the World of Kelp made me want to call up my own parents and thank them for every single stupid thing they sat through with me as a kid). But there are also some surprisingly quiet (as quiet as Octodad can get) one-on-one moments with the family that reminds you why it’s worth it in the end—and why Octodad is actually a pretty good dad when it comes down to it.
This overall feel-good motif is what really helps to drive home Octodad’s story by the time the credits roll. Yeah, it’s kinda sappy Saturday morning style stuff, but dammit, it works here. Honestly, the whole vibe of the game reminds me a lot of the first time I played Katamari Damacy, wherein I was presented a new way to interact with a game in a world that was charming in its own right. But maybe, just maybe, there was something deeper to it in the end.
Octodad: Dadliest Catch is a truly one of a kind game that, despite a few hiccups, is definitely worth playing. Even though the joke of the game is that it is quite hard to play, the game end up mostly playable, save for the final sections, thanks to some simple and funny gameplay. And with achievements, time trials, collectable ties, and even a hilariously chaotic co-op mode, there’s enough to give Octodad a bit more shelf life than its appropriately short two hour runtime; especially with integrated Steam Workshop features allowing for freeplay and custom stage creation.
So grab some friends, throw Octodad: Dadliest Catch up on the big screen, and prepare to laugh and stumble your way through the life of one of the world’s best dads.