Octodad: Dadliest Catch Review
Standing tall (or should that be: leaning awkwardly and slightly to the left, while jiggling intermittently) alongside titles such as Surgeon Simulator 2013 and QWOP, in a fast forming genre I want to call the awkward-em-up, Octodad: Dadliest Catch takes an aspect of gaming that can sink a title, bad controls, and makes it... an actual selling point.
Octodad is a physics-based adventure/puzzler in which you play an octopus trying to pass himself off as an average Joe-human, keeping his family in the dark and completing day-to-day chores, all while hiding his gangly, chaotic eight legs and avoiding an insane (well... sane. He's the only one that sees through your pitifully thin disguise) sushi chef. The whole process of keeping your cephalopod nature shtum is, of course, made difficult by painfully awkward controls: you move each limb separately by holding down the appropriate button and you have to try and coordinate your actions in order to get things done. Of course, things rarely get ‘done’ and in reality your limbs will be flying around spasmodically; you'll find yourself lurching up stairs like a man mid-seizure and incessantly picking up the wrong item while sending every other object in the room flying, in what will be a Marmite division of either hilarity or pure frustration. For the most part, I was in stitches - attempting to walk down the aisle while trying (and failing) not to knock down every precariously balanced pillar and vase is the closest our genre will ever get to slapstick comedy (if we discount your nan playing Wii). That said, there were occasions where I just had to turn the game off and come back to it later, so infuriating was it in places.
In a game based on awkward controls, add local co-op and you just double, triple and treble the fun. In co-op you can split control of the limbs, making for a game that will bring you and your friend closer together while instantaneously causing lifelong rifts. The amount of coordination and teamwork required means it should be used by corporations for team building exercises. Simply negotiating around the garden with a lawnmower will result in hilarity, shouting, throttling and your wife’s decimated flower bed.
Octodad plays best when you're doing the mundane. Garden chores, grocery shopping and making coffee are the funniest as you cause complete chaos, trashing the entire house while family and neighbours look on... only mildly disgruntled. Less funny is when things get more 'gamey'. Later on you are sporadically pursued by the angry chef of dubious accent, who will force a number of situations where you have to either run away at speed or sneak. In these more prescribed and gamefied situations the ungainly controls play against you. Asking the player to carry out tasks that require precision seems like the dumbest of design choices when you based your game on imprecision.
The overall story is only so-so. Bits of humour add to your fumbling antics and the whole thing is very tongue-in-cheek, but punchlines are often killed by bad timing. The graphics look old and the soundtrack is dull - a disappointment considering Octodad’s catchy title track (‘Who’s that man in the three piece suit?’). Most of these flaws fade into the background though, as the game is all about the physics engine, which only becomes more amusing the more broken it is.
The game is stupidly short for its current price: just as I got into the flow of the thing, coordinating my body so I could slip past tasks, it was over. Arguably, this is for the best as the game no doubt loses all its appeal once it becomes playable, but at the current price point of £14.99 I felt a bit short-changed. That said, the inclusion of Steam Workshop functionality means that absurd user created content should extend Octodad’s lifespan past its short 2-3 hour playtime as long as the community is there to support it.
Octodad: Dadliest Catch
This game is good, with a few negatives.
In the end, Octodad is an interesting and amusing title, a good game to pick up and play with friends for short gaming bursts. If however, you are liable to fits of rage then for the love of God, avoid.