The wonderful thing about indie games is that they can be about anything. They don’t need to have the requisite grizzled, macho hero or awkward love interest that triple-A games seem so attached to. They can be about little boys lost in dark, scary woods, or about sexually ambiguous robed figures running across a desert, or indeed about an octopus who has infiltrated society and spends his days hiding his true identity from his family.
After being successfully kickstarted, Octodad: Dadliest Catch was released on Steam in January and on the PS4 in April. The protagonist is an octopus who has somehow found himself in a family with two children. It is essential that his loved ones do not find out that he is an octopus, so he has to function like a normal, human male.
However, every day is a huge challenge for poor old Octodad. With limbs designed for swimming rather than making coffee, even menial tasks are a massive struggle, and if he makes too much of a mess, his family will start to wonder why their father can’t open a window without getting stuck in the ceiling fan.
The player controls four of Octodad’s limbs using four separate buttons and the challenge lies in coordinating the limbs in order to complete simple tasks with the minimal amount of fuss and mess. It’s very original and is fun most of the time, but it gets a little frustrating when the fixed camera seems to want to point at the most inconvenient part of any given room. However, the humour of watching an octopus trash a house whilst trying to open a door usually makes up for any frustration.
Extra challenge is added by the fact that if Octodad acts strangely whilst people are watching, they grow increasingly suspicious, and if they get too suspicious it’s game over. It does have a completely tacked on and unfeasible local multiplayer mode in which each player controls two limbs, but it’s difficult enough coordinating Octodad as it is without involving a second person.
Octodad: Dadliest Catch isn’t a very long game. You start off at a wedding. Then you do some chores around the house. Then you go grocery shopping. Then you go to an aquarium. That’s it. It’s probably just the right length, as having to awkwardly flop around a bunch of everyday locations for any longer than a few hours would be too much.
Whilst fulfilling the normal role of a father, including mowing the lawn and going shopping for groceries, Octodad has to avoid an evil chef who is determined show the world that he’s an octopus, and possibly chop him up too.
Despite the mundane nature of its setting, the story actually manages to be quite touching. It’s like a bizarre little love story, backed by a lovely soundtrack. It’s a silly, preposterous little tale, but I felt an affection for Octodad, even if his children are living clichés. The boy is mischievous and sporty whilst the girl is clever and well-behaved. Need I say more?
It’s probably a story that the player isn’t meant to think about too much. If he is an octopus, how has he got children? The game makes a point of saying that when Octodad is naked, everybody can tell he’s an octopus, but his wife must have seen him naked at some point. I suppose if you’re seriously asking these sorts of questions then you’re missing the point.
Octodad: Dadliest Catch’s greatest strength lies in its quirky humour. It’s a consistently funny game, which is a rare thing, and the game is just as fun to watch as it is to play. Octodad’s startled expression made me laugh consistently as his limbs flailed around, and each time he talks to his family, his illegible blub-filled voice is subtitled with lines like “curt explanation blub” or “adament denial blubs”.
I’d recommend Octodad: Dadliest Catch wholeheartedly, because it’s one of those lovely little games that feels as if it’s been created to evoke joy. If you’ve got a PS4 or a PC and you want something original that will make you chuckle, then get your tentacles on this.
A jaded horror enthusiast, I get my kicks hiding in cupboards from whatever hideous creatures happen to be around. I'll happily play most genres on a range of consoles and PC. Apart from writing for Z1G, I also study Public Relations at Leeds Met and I sell sea shells on the sea shore.