Nobody Suspects A Thing
HIGH The premise is comedic gold.
LOW Knocking bottles down in the arcade. Also, the hammerhead chase.
WTF Octodad only has six arms?!?
As one might gather from its title, Octodad stars an octopus who's a father. Or perhaps he's a father who's also an octopus. Either way, everything about this game is both delightful and absurd, and I adored every minute of it.
Unique among titles on the PS4 (and most titles in general), Octodad: Dadliest Catch is all about its controls. Quasi-simulating the limp, squishy body of a cephalopod, the game tasks players with moving Octodad through each environment and doing things that ordinarily wouldn't take a second thought. Opening a door requires the press of a button in other adventures, but in Octodad, successfully opening a door is the adventure.
With this unique focus, it makes sense to expect a unique interface method, and that's exactly what players get. One thumbstick controls an axis of Octodad's grabbing tentacle, and the other axis is handled by the second stick. By holding R1, Dad's right leg becomes the operative limb, and L1 moves the left. If that sounds confusing and complicated, well, it sort of is, but that struggle is where much of the game's joy comes in.
Despite the tentacles coming out of his cuffs and his bulbous sac of a head, people don't question Octodad's identity until the player starts making mistakes in someone's line of sight. It's absolutely hilarious to see Dad fumbling through a mundane goal like putting on a tie, or trying to get a key in a lock. Grilling burgers on the barbecue is a boss-level ‘fight', and going up a downward escalator is a major challenge. All of this is accompanied by much laughter, of course.
As amusing as it is to see this octopus stumble around on land, the thing that pushes the game into brilliance is the writing—both in its humor, and in its heart. Hearing Dad reply with burbles and squishy sounds when ‘chatting' is fantastic, and nearly every line has some sort of comedic, ocean-oriented jab in it. Also, bonus points are awarded for the game touching on the fact that Dad has two healthy, normal-looking human kids despite the lack of… Well, nevermind.
Speaking of the kids, Octodad earnestly tries to be a good father, and the family unit seems genuinely happy. Even when things get tough thanks to a persistent sushi chef who's out to expose the truth, they stick together and love remains the message of the day. It's a great change of pace compared to most games, and something I'd be quite happy to see more of.
With a novel approach to gameplay, laugh out loud humor, a warm tone, and the silliness inherent to floppy octopi, I've got nothing but good things to say about Octodad: Dadliest Catch. For those who appreciate tightly-focused experiences from out on the fringe, it's highly recommended.
Disclosures: This game was obtained via paid download and reviewed on the PS4. Approximately 2.5 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. No time was spent in multiplayer mode.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game contains: fantasy violence. Parents, have no fear at all. While it's probably too difficult for young ones to play, it's safe as houses to watch. I let my four-year-old sit next to me for the whole adventure, and he absolutely adored it.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing: No problems here. All dialogue is subtitled, and no audio cues are needed for gameplay. Totally accessible.
Currently, he's got about 42 minutes a night to play because adulting is a timesuck, but despite that, he's a happily married guy with two kids who both have better K/D ratios than he does.
Brad still loves Transformers, he's on Marvel Puzzle Quest when nobody at the office is looking, and his favorite game of all time is the first Mass Effect -- and he thought the trilogy's ending was Just Fine, Thanks.
Follow Brad on Twitter at @BradGallaway