Doors. Doors aren’t usually a problem. I’ve been around long enough to have doors sussed. But in Octodad: Dadliest Catch doors are my number one enemy.
Even when I manage to grab a doorknob, it’s a challenge to get through the entrance without slamming it on myself and ending up a tangle of tentacles pinned to the floor by the door. Sigh. Such is life as Octodad, the unlikely hero of this slapstick indie game.
Cephalopod in disguise
If there’s a prize for the wackiest game concept of the year, Octodad’s got to be a firm favourite.
You’re an octopus. In a suit. That would be odd in itself, but you’ve also just got married and had kids with a human and no-one, especially not your wife, seems to have noticed that you are actually a salty sea mollusc.
The challenge is to maintain the pretence by doing everyday tasks such as mowing the lawn or doing the shopping. Sounds easy, but when you’re a hard-to-control octopus in a suit and tie, dexterity isn’t on your side.
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Out of control
Octodad’s wayward tentacles are where the game’s magic is. The PS4’s right stick controls Octodad’s right arm, while the L2 and R2 shoulder buttons manage his legs and the left stick handles the direction of his movements (alternatively you can use the PS Camera).
At first, it’s chaos and you flail around like a wavy tube man in a hurricane. Once you get used to the controls, it’s only mildly less chaotic as you career around bumping into precariously balanced household objects, jostle with doors and generally tumble around. It might be hard to control but that’s the point and, together with Octodad’s expressive eyes and burbles, it’s a game that can be amusing even when all you’re doing is trying to walk down a corridor.
When the flippy floppy movements are coupled with mundane tasks such as buying frozen pizza at the supermarket, Octodad is laugh-out-loud funny.
The supermarket stage is a standout as you awkwardly scramble over stacks of boxes, slide around the aisles on banana skins and get trapped in freezer cabinets before trying to compose yourself lest the other shoppers stare at you for too long and see through your imperfect disguise.
But chores are not the only challenge. There’s also a mad chef who, rather ironically, knows that you are an octopus and now wants to turn you into calamari. He pops up at the end of each stage for often frustrating madcap chases or boss fights.
Calamari with friends
You don’t have to enjoy Octodad alone. Dadliest Catch has a four player co-op mode in which you and your friends can each take charge of a different tentacle with inevitably dire but amusing consequences.
There's also a free play mode that lets you go back to the stages you’ve already completed and mess around without any of the usual objectives to deal with. While free play is perfect for going back and finding the many easter eggs lurking in the game, the game feels directionless without a list of chores to get you into trouble.
Fun as Octodad: Dadliest Catch is, the novelty wears thin fast. The juxtaposition between the everyday and Octodad’s haphazard stumbling is situation comedy gold, but the game trips itself up by dishing out bland sneak-past-enemies fare in its later stages.
By the end the game feels more like a so-so platform game with annoying camera than the free-wheeling chaos promised at the start. It’s short, too - two or three hours to complete each stage, and the easter eggs and free play mode aren't going to keep you coming back for much longer.
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Octodad: Dadliest Catch verdict
Octodad: Dadliest Catch is a great idea - but it's only half-realised.
The gleeful fun of the early stages is let down by the game’s less than inspired later stages and its brevity. And at US$14.99 (S$19) it’s a hard game to wholly recommend - you will almost certainly enjoy it, but probably not for long enough for you to feel that you're getting your money's worth.
That’s a shame because in those early moments when it does fulfill its messy comedy potential Octodad is a charming game with a great lead character and plenty of joyful slapstick fun.
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