In the last week, I’ve been obsessed with this indie game that I’ve seen talked about everywhere. You play as a fish-like animal who has to complete a really simple task, but the controls are so fiddly and precise that it makes it really hard.
Of course, I’m talking about Octodad: Dadliest Catch. What the hell does a flappy bird have to do with anything?
Octodad is at once the most brilliant and most stupid idea for a game ever conceived. You are an octopus masquerading as a man, and, as such a thing is not very normal and quite liable to get you sliced up by a furious chef, you must hide this fact from your wife and children. Quite how your children were conceived and how your wife didn’t find out your cephalopod tendencies on your wedding night is very wisely skimmed over, but it seems they love you very much, even if you do trample a few flowers or get your legs stuck in the occasional chair.
The game is controlled using only the mouse, and uses the middle click to switch between controlling Octodad’s arms and legs. This rather understates the difficulty. Octodad’s boneless appendages are well suited for propelling him through water but fare rather less brilliantly on land, where you’ll regularly flail about like you’ve downed a pint of scotch and render any subtle movement nearly impossible.
Of course, clattering into things and causing havoc might raise people’s suspicion that you’re an octopus, is a sentence I hoped never to say. Therefore the challenge lies in completing mundane tasks – weeding the garden, a visit to the grocery store, playing odd minigames at the aquarium to give weird presents to your wife – without messing up so badly that… well, what happens when you’re caught is never properly explained. The screen just goes purple and you respawn. The best guess is that you end up served in a Japanese restaurant.
It’s a novel approach to puzzle-based gameplay, although it seems best suited to gamepad control. Certain tasks can be made much more difficult than intended, not by design but by the problems of using a mouse.
The main campaign, as it were, it remarkably short – there are only some five or six real missions in all, and all of them can be completed in a few minutes once you have the hang of the controls. Still, that shouldn’t necessarily be taken as a point against Octodad. Its real appeal (although currently small due to the age of the game) is that its compatibility with the Steam Workshop means user-created levels abound, usually ridiculously difficult and only suitable for those who have experience of navigating precariously place pallets in the body of an octopus.
That does raise the rather pressing question of what will happen when the game is ported over to the PlayStation 4. While on Steam the game’s price can be justified with the wealth of user generated content available, the PS4 has no such distribution system and without that extra incentive to continue playing, customers may feel they’ve been oversold a game which by all accounts isn’t very substantial.
Although the environments themselves are rather on the small side, it doesn’t stop them being filled with a remarkable number of objects with which the betentacled protagonist can interact. One particularly fiendish achievement requires filling the shopping baskets of everyone else in the supermarket before filling your own, a task made all the more maddening when they keep moving.
Whether it’s the interior of a shark tank or a suburban back yard, the visuals of Dadliest Catch are solid, if unspectacular. While it won’t be winning any prizes for its design, the cartoon style and range of colours used is attractive enough that you’ll struggle not to be charmed by it all the way through. Add on a rather catchy theme song and it’s difficult to deny that Young Horses have done an excellent job with the presentation here.
Octodad: Dadliest Catch stands as a tribute to all that is ridiculous, hilarious and lovely about modern independent games. At no point does it take itself seriously, and its childlike sense of humour – both verbal and slapstick – runs a rich vein through every level. Admittedly it’s short, but if the only bad thing to say of a game is that there should be more, then that’s a ringing endorsement indeed. Young Horses have not only done themselves proud, they have entered into the pantheon of games like Psychonauts and Conker’s Bad Fur Day which can, with great pride, call themselves gloriously stupid. 93%