By: Mike Chen
One of the most bizarre — and charming — games I saw of the initial PS4 crop demoed at PAX Prime last September was Octodad: Dadliest Catch. The concept of being an octopus living a normal suburban life is so strange that it’s endearing, and the short demo I tried at PAX was goofy enough to win me over. Now the full game is out on PS4 — but is it a one-trick (or tentacle) pony?
This is going to sound a little convoluted but try to follow. Octodad is truly a ragdoll physics game, which means you have control over individual limbs. The left stick and right stick are used for arm control by default with R1 used to toggle grabbing objects. L2 and R2 are held down to control left and right leg movement with the left stick.
If this sounds confusing, it is at first, and it’ll take you about 30 minutes to get used to such a bizarre control scheme. One thing you’ll notice is a lack of camera control, which makes precision actions difficult.
Even though this is on the PS4, Octodad is an indie title at its core, one developed by students. The graphics are on par for this, and there’s nothing particularly stylized or unique about it; you’ll get cartoony characters and environments that could have been achieved two generations ago. However, the game isn’t shooting for much more, nor should it given the context of its origin.
Voice acting is strong and appropriate with a mix of whimsical and goofy. You will hear a lot from Scarlet, Octodad’s wife, whose voice and cadence reminds me of Cartman‘s mom from South Park, and they cast an appropriate actress for the role.
GAMEPLAY (4 / 5)
Octodad is pretty straightforward in concept — you’re an octopus posing as a human and you have to blend in before anyone realizes the truth. As people notice your actions (such as your tentacles knocking stuff over), a purple meter at the bottom of the screen gradually fills. A silly narrative connects levels together, forcing Octodad to do things like make it through a museum exhibit or clean the yard without completely decimating his surroundings. Climbing a mountain of cartons at the grocery store is difficult for normal people, so just imagine how hard it is being an octopus!
All of this unfolds with complete ragdoll physics. Objects in environments can almost universally be picked up, knocked over, or thrown about. Sometimes you’ll want to or need to in order to accomplish your goal, and sometimes your goal is to remain as inconspicuous as possible by walking in between a very narrow aisle of breakable objects.
If this sounds silly, well, it’s because it is, but that’s really a big part of Octodad’s charm. During the first tutorial section, my frustrations at the unorthodox controls were bubbling to the surface, but as I got the hang of it and found myself in ridiculous situations such as avoiding a psychotic sushi chef, the game began to work. It’s a relatively short experience, but most of the time I couldn’t help but smile at what a strange and quirky experience it was.
Octodad: Dadliest Catch’s ragdoll physics and controls aren’t perfect, but it’s wrapped up in a crowd-pleasing narrative of an outsider who just wants to fit in. At $14.99, it’s a bit pricey, but when the inevitable discounts set in it’s worth picking up, particularly if you enjoy humor in games.