Octodad: Dadliest Catch is at it’s very core a game where you play an octopus disguised as a man attempting to make it through daily life. During my time playing the game, I found myself only taking this very cosmetic look at the title when upon reflection it actually says a lot more than “Ha, look at the octopus falling about!”
Thinking back on it now, I guess I approached Octodad: Dadliest Catch with a completely different perspective than most people. When first playing Young Horses Inc’s game I found myself humoured by the wobbly physics behind Octodad’s movements, his arms flailing around as he attempts to get ready for his wedding day before starting his everyday life as a husband and father.
The game is broken up into different seemingly mundane tasks for Octodad to complete such as going shopping for groceries and visiting the aquarium with your children, but with the difference that you are playing as an octopus disguised as a human. The running joke being that his ‘disguise’ is merely a suit through which Octodad pokes some of his tentacles through to emulate hands and feet whilst concealing the rest.
Having had some fun with the first level and successfully shuffling my way down the aisle I moved onto the next level. The objective was simple: get Octodad out of bed and to his family kitchen to make some coffee. It’s a scene which shouldn’t have made me feel as melancholy as it did but it resonated with something within me from my past. With the controls being that Octodad’s legs are raised by using the trigger buttons on whichever controller you care to use so that each step is carefully planned out, otherwise resulting in hilarious ragdoll physics, I was reminded that roughly three years ago I injured my spine – trapped a nerve and was stricken with numbness in my legs. To cut a long story short I had to go through six months of physiotherapy which, when compared to the control system of Octodad, is shockingly similar.
It’s fine to shrug off this analogy as ‘too serious’ for a game about a well dress cephalopod but as I’ve never been a disguised octopus it was the only thing that came to mind. Each step through the second level of Octodad reminded me of the months surrounding my treatment. Each motion, each footfall is carefully mapped out in your brain – you have to teach yourself to walk again otherwise human ragdolling takes effect and everything goes horribly wrong. Even the initial objective of making coffee is a careful balancing act between not appearing like Stretch Armstrong after he’s had a few too many and remaining inconspicuous for fear that people (even your own family) will discover your secret and worry.
Morbid analogies aside, Octodad is a very fun game, created as a sequel to Young Horses original Octodad which I never played, it’s a good laugh leading Octodad through his daily life with the occasional sprinkling of danger and peril thrown in for good measure. The sections of the game where you need to do something quickly however are where the game feels like it falls apart slightly. More than one ‘Quick, run!’ scene ended up in a frustrating amount of retries and it’s not just because I’m a bit rubbish at games either. The mechanics rely not only on your skill as a gamer but also on a decent amount of luck too.
Overall, Octodad: Dadliest Catch feels a bit longer than it needs to be, weighing in at roughly four hours, as after the second hour you’ve not only figured out the stepping and grabbing mechanics but you are only stopped by the most persistent of stationary objects within the game world. Sadly, there isn’t a lot of diversity in the levels with a lot of A-to-B missions and sneaky stealth missions, topped off with an infuriatingly glitchy boss fight which depends on NPC’s triggering certain events which only work a rough percentage of the time.
These issues aside, I did find it incredibly interesting that I found myself relating to an octopus and his slapstick-style antics. I’m also aware that there are several other theories from fans of the game as to how they interpret Octodad and something much more than just what we’re aesthetically presented with. Octodad: Dadliest Catch is a well executed idea with a honestly funny running joke throughout, but after hearing that joke over and over for a few hours, you find yourself hungry for something more.