Loving father. Caring husband. Secret octopus. That’s the tagline to Octodad: Dadliest Catch, the sequel to Young Horses’ surprise 2010 splash hit Octodad. And it sums up the game quite succinctly. You take control of an undercover cephalopod living in the human world. You have to make sure that your family and those around you have no reason to suspect your aquatic origins. There is, however, one malicious chef who knows your true identity, and makes it his mission to expose you for what you really are: an ink-spraying creature of the sea.
The plot’s minimalistic, but this works marvellously. The campaign amounts to little more than the average day in the life of a normal human, albeit a rather busy one. You’ll interact with your children, get the groceries, and take a trip to the aquarium. The latter leads to utter pandemonium, of course, which also serves to keep you engaged in the simplistic narrative. Some of the assets in this area include the sparse but entertaining dialogue – Octodad’s ‘voice’ is a particular highlight – as well as the frequent references to film, gaming, and sea life in general.
The title brings with it intentionally wonky controls that make the most basic of tasks an arduous chore, which serve to heighten the challenges that face the invertebrate every day. Something as simple as making coffee becomes an incredibly challenging and often hilarious task. For instance, a normal human may not accidentally toss their freshly ground beans into the fridge, but this is a common occurrence for our downtrodden protagonist as he calamitously wobbles from one problem to another.
While the game is designed to make you feel the hero’s plight, though, it’s also augmented with a rather reasonable learning curve. One stick controls the height of your arms, and the other manipulates the direction inwards and outwards. Meanwhile, the DualShock 4’s triggers command one leg apiece. While it may sound challenging, by the end of the first level, it all becomes second nature, and you’ll be squelching and squishing your way around in no time. Moreover, you’ll no doubt be laughing your way through, too.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a whole lot of deviation in the tasks that you’re asked to do. A lot of the campaign relies on simple “go here, get this, and bring it back” procedures, which can get tiresome after a while. As such, long sessions with the release aren’t exactly recommended, as its best enjoyed in short blasts. Even then, the novelty will wear off by the end of the campaign, which is a particular shame as it only takes a few hours at most to complete. As such, it’s hard not to feel that a little more variety in the gameplay could have really elevated the experience.
Still, there’s plenty of diversity in the environments that you’ll explore, ranging from your local grocery store to a variety of wings in the aforementioned aquarium, as well as this reviewer’s personal highlight: a fishing boat. The art style evokes an almost Saturday morning cartoon feel, and while it’s never exactly going to strain your uber-powerful next-gen console, it’s clean and clear, and looks just like it should.
Sadly, the new hardware hasn’t prevented a handful of bugs from slipping through. We experienced some issues in the aquarium area named ‘Kelp Forest’, and we also encountered a couple of occasions where some assets that should be present simply failed to appear, forcing us to restart the entire game. While these problems are largely forgivable, one particular “stealth” section is much harder to stomach, as many of the objects that are included to help break the line of sight of the biologists that you’re trying to get by don’t seem to work at all.
Flaws aside, this is very much the definitive version of the game, with the developer having overhauled the latter third of the campaign since its PC release, as well as adding more challenges and disguises for you to wear. It’s also worth mentioning that you can use the PlayStation Move motion controller to puppeteer the protagonist, which brings a different challenge to the already wonky gameplay. If you happen to have one or two of Sony’s illuminated wands lying around, it’s certainly worth testing out this feature.
Similarly, the game’s co-op mode also warrants a look. Playable locally, this allows you and your friends to individually control one of the hero’s limbs, culminating in complete and utter madness. Sharing this experience while prancing about to the delightfully retro introductory and closing songs is the epitome of fun, and while it’s very much a novelty, it makes the release worth purchasing all the same.
Octodad: Dadliest Catch is a game that embraces its craziness. The title’s zany controls lead to some even stranger onscreen occurrences, and that culminates in a lot of unexpected entertainment. The release does start to grate in long sessions, and perhaps doesn’t have enough gameplay variety to carry its core idea, but with PlayStation Move support and a ridiculous co-op component, the package will spread a smile across even the sternest countenance.