Quick Look: Octodad: Dadliest Catch

Oh, like you've never lost control of your limbs and thrown an axe at a child. Cut Octodad some slack.

Drew Scanlon on Google+
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Octodad: Dadliest Catch Review

4
  • PC

Some late-game issues not withstanding, Dadliest Catch is a charming, bizarre, genuinely likable little game.

Octodad: Dadliest Catch has one of the great comic premises ever attempted in video games. In it, you are Octodad, an octopus masquerading as the patriarch of a nuclear human family. Despite very obviously being an octopus, nobody--save but for an enraged, indeterminately foreign-sounding chef--has a clue about this, allowing Octodad to go about his daily life. Which is no small challenge given that his limbs flail and crash into just about everything as he tries to make his squishy body into something resembling a human form.

Meet Octodad. He's like most other dads, except for the part where he's an octopus.

Of course, this premise was initially established in 2010's Octodad, a student-developed IGF entry which is still available free of cost on the Octodad website. However, while that game was more like an elongated cartoon sketch, Dadliest Catch fleshes out the betentacled hero's back story while adding several more ridiculous situations and objectives for the player to engage in. For much of Dadliest Catch's playtime, everything works in a kind of chaotic harmony, creating comedy out of every day situations that are, unsurprisingly, ludicrously challenging for a cephalopod in a suit. Unfortunately, the game doesn't quite stick the landing, as its last act gets bogged down by irritating objectives while trying to wrap up the character's arc a bit too hastily.

But before you get there, there's a lot of goofy fun to be had with Dadliest Catch's early goings. The game opens with Octodad frantically trying to prepare for his wedding. This opening level perfectly establishes the basics of everything that comes afterward. You quickly learn Octodad's limb control system, which requires you to independently control his legs and his right arm through careful control stick/mouse movements. You'll be tasked with simple goals like picking up objects, opening doors, putting on clothes, and the like. Thrashing around too much or destroying too much scenery will cause humans to become suspicious of you--nevermind that your head is yellow and your limbs have suction cups attached to them, of course. Your suspicion level is dictated via a meter at the bottom of the screen, but fortunately, only the most outrageous behavior will cause it to rise sharply. You can create a fair amount of accidental (or intentional, I suppose) carnage before you have to worry about any real consequences.

That's good, because half the joy of the game is just watching Octodad's ridiculous attempts at normal behavior go awry. Grabbing and holding anything with your right "arm" most often results in a variety of objects being knocked around, and even just trying to position Octodad into the places required to achieve objectives is an effort unto itself. It's worth noting that for a game that's largely about wild limb gesticulation, it controls pretty well. It can be a bit flustering when an arm just doesn't seem to want to line up with an object you're trying to grab, or your legs won't navigate around objects as easily as you might like, but most of the game's early levels don't require you to do anything too strenuous anyway. For instance, the second chapter just revolves around Octodad getting out of bed, making coffee, and doing some light household chores. The challenge of accomplishing those tasks is entirely baked into the goofy control scheme and the resulting destruction.

It is extremely difficult to get Octodad to do much of anything without wrecking most of the objects in your vicinity, but then, that's the point.

It's simple, but smartly designed stuff, underpinned by terrific visuals and some sharply written dialogue. Octodad doesn't really speak so much as he blubs in highly specific tones as his human wife, son, and daughter all try to converse with him. The set-ups for these exchanges are all pretty great, and go a long way toward making Octodad into a more endearing character, especially in the opening chapters of the game. It's in these sections that you can most plainly see the slapstick inspirations of the game's premise. In these parts, Octodad almost feels like a lost Warner Bros. cartoon character, forced to try and maintain his double life, all while the aforementioned crazed foreign chef tries in increasingly desperate and homicidal ways to convince everyone else of Octodad's true identity.

It's how Dadliest Catch chooses to pay off this premise toward the end that the game ultimately falters. Much is made early on about Octodad's aversion to the local aquarium (for obvious reasons), but eventually he ends up there with his family anyway. This section starts out nicely, with Octodad spending time with each member of his family in a different section of the aquarium, playing some minigames and bonding with his kids (and trying desperately to distract his wife from asking too many questions about his past). But then things take a weird turn. A flashback sequence takes you to a fishing boat and the first moments of Octodad's false identity, and it all plays out as, of all things, a stealth sequence. Dadliest Catch controls just fine when you're just trying to do simple chores or navigate around some elaborately designed environments, but when you have to try and actively avoid anyone spotting you, there are just too many variables to navigate to avoid obnoxious bouts of trial-and-error. Everything up to this point is pretty breezy and silly, but suddenly the game is asking you to be more precise and sneaky in your movements, and it doesn't really work.

Unfortunately, the entire back third of the game is like this. The last two chapters require more stealth, attack dodging, and careful (yet quick) platform navigation, none of which line up well with how the game actually controls. These sequences aren't impossible by any means, but they're far more frustrating than the lightweight goofs of the early game, and often it feels like you're succeeding more on accident than through any actual mastery of the controls. It doesn't help that the story takes a strange turn around this time as well, one that is surprisingly willing to abandon the whole "secret octopus" concept the game was, up to this point, entirely predicated upon.

It's short, sometimes frustrating, and ends a little weird, but Octodad: Dadliest Catch is too charming not to recommend.

If I'm especially disappointed by these parts of Dadliest Catch, it's because the first couple of hours are so good. These opening chapters are ridiculous and delightful, a wonderful blend of purposely ramshackle control and physics-based insanity. Yes, the game is only about three hours long on a single playthrough, provided you aren't painstakingly picking through every environment looking for secret ties or bonny hats to decorate Octodad with. It being a short game is hardly a terrible thing by itself--in fact, too many hours of just crashing through environments probably would have gotten old after a point. The issue is that the game doesn't always make the best use of the time it has. It loses both narrative and comic momentum as it ambles toward its conclusion, which makes those frustrating gameplay sections sting all the more.

Still, in spite of its issues toward the end, I enjoyed more than enough of Dadliest Catch to recommend it. When this game is at its best, it's exquisitely silly, genuinely funny, and even kind of sweet, in its own demented way. There's certainly reason to go back and play through it again, including a strange, but clever co-op mode (in which up to four players can control different parts of Octodad's body), and Steam Workshop support for user-made levels. Even when it falters, Octodad: Dadliest Catch is a likable game. It's only disappointing by virtue of the fact that with a few of its design and story quirks worked out, it could have been a lovable game instead.

Alex Navarro on Google+
33 Comments
Posted by csl316

I kept thinking it'd be frustrating despite the charm, but people have been raving about it for months. I need to know more.

To the Quick Look!

Posted by Beanz122

I'm really glad this game came out as good as it did. I've had my eye on it ever since it was shown at E3. I think there's a bright future for this company.

Posted by washingmachine

Game is Pun City

Posted by AMyggen

Really looking forward to playing this game.

Posted by mrfluke

Always liked this game, and the developers are super nice and NOT some set of obnoxious assholes who badmouth AAA games. so they have my money for sure

Posted by Video_Game_King

What the what? Where did this come from?

Also:

Posted by The_Nubster

Interesting to hear that the game falls apart in the last act, since that's exactly what happened in the first game. The last section was all about stealth and platforming, and it kind of sucked.

Posted by Nightriff

Can't wait for the PS4 version, looks to be a lot of fun.

Edited by Cold_Wolven

This game seems pretty sweet although it's unfortunate to hear the last third is stealth based which I was hoping after watching the QL wouldn't be a gameplay mechanic.

Posted by poprocksandsoda

I think it's a bad idea to name the game after a pun of a TV show title. When looking at this on the PS4 store 4 years from now after the Deadliest Catch is canceled people will wonder, "What the hell's with that name?"

That said, I'm super excited to play this when it's available on PS4

Posted by benu302000

Wait, Giantbomb reviews games now?

Posted by Yesiamaduck

Guys seriously it doesn't control nearly as poorly as the quick look makes it out.

And those wondering if it's just a tech demo.. this is totally made up by the charm, characters and stories and it does a lot with the mechanic in a short amount of time. One hell of game (seriously love it)

Posted by development

Sounds good enough to buy. I'm still interested in where they go with the story, even if it's a little too weird.

Posted by packs217

Phil, if you're reading the comments... then stop. Don't read the comments. That said, congrats on the launch, buddy. Love the game.

Edited by HMacyFan4eva

This game really reminds me of that Rabbids game where you have to collect junk to go to the moon

Online
Posted by JayEH

Another Alex sneak review.

Posted by BBQBram

This reads more like a three-star review to be honest.

Posted by Tober
@bbqbram said:

This reads more like a three-star review to be honest.

What? How?

Posted by thekitkatshuffler

@bbqbram said:

This reads more like a three-star review to be honest.

Agreed. And from the QL it looks like a 3 star game at best. Not surprised it got 4 on here though.

Edited by thekitkatshuffler

@tober said:
@bbqbram said:

This reads more like a three-star review to be honest.

What? How?

He basically writes off a third of the game. Not sure how it can still earn 4 stars after that.

Edited by Alex

@thekitkatshuffler: By the first two-thirds being excellent, primarily. I flirted with the idea of a three-star score, but I went back and played through the game a second time and frankly I ended up enjoying it more on my second play. Hence why it got the score it did.

Staff
Posted by cooljammer00

Shocking that the worst parts of the game end up being the story.

Anyway, this is basically Chicken Boo the game, so no wonder Alex says it's a lost WB cartoon.

Are those kids OctoDad's biological kids? Or is he just a sweetheart who married a woman with two kids and raised her children as his own?

Posted by Jim_Efantis

I got the opportunity to play this game at the Sony Store when they first launched brought PlayStation 4 demos into the store. It's bizarre... but I liked it. And seeing how Sony branded the "we love indies!" movement, I thought this would be coming out sooner than later. Despite that, I can say it's worth the wait. Games that are out of the norm are a great break from the classics.

Posted by chilibean_3

So, yeah, this game is super short. And those last few levels aren't fun at all. To the point where I was worried if it didn't end soon it would leave a bad impression for the whole game. But the first half of the game is so dang well done. Once you get a handle on the mechanics the things they ask of you aren't that hard to figure out. I absolutely love the characters and humor. It fizzles real bad at the end but the first half had my smiling like a goon the whole time.

Posted by VintAge68

Great well-informed review... C:。ミ

I'm really looking forward to playing this game, but will definitely wait for its PS4 version first.

Posted by Sooty

I'll add this to the list of games I think people enjoy saying they like, or think is good, rather than actually liking it, because it looks like cold garbage, not even hot garbage.

Edited by LarryDavis

@yesiamaduck: Yeah, Jeff was really bad at it for some reason. I found using a controller was waaaaay easier than the mouse/keyboard controls of the first game. I made this dumbass video and had no problems wrecking things for maximum effect.

I actually watched the QL after playing the game and was pretty surprised Jeff had so much trouble. I actually found the game a little underwhelming my first time through these areas because I had no problems completing objectives, and as a result didn't cause much hilarious destruction.

Posted by TDot

unfortunately, I feel like I only actually had 45 minutes of fun.

Posted by YagmanX

I loved this game so much, so frustrating yet so addictive!
And the theme tune has been stuck in my head for such a long time...

Time to dance around London as an Octodad! (even though I'm a girl...)

Octodad Dance in London?!