Some fathers are doting and kind. Some embarrass us on family trips. And others still are yellow sea creatures posing as humans. Wait, that doesn’t sound right. How could an octopus or any similar being ever pass as a human father? The truth is, it couldn’t – especially when it’s as cartoony as Octodad. The situation is ludicrous enough on its own, but that’s what makes Octodad: Dadliest Catch such a hilarious and wild ride. Every single aspect teems with silliness, but the fact that it doesn’t take itself seriously is the very reason it’s just so much fun to play.
It’s far from perfect, but even with a few issues it could well be the most fun I had playing a video game all year, and that’s saying a lot.
Octodad places you in the shoes of a shocking yellow octopus who also happens to have a human wife and two children. All he wants to do is fit in, escape the angry chef who happens to be chasing him down, and raise his son and daughter to grow up to be fine young adults. Except none of that is simple to do when walking from one area to another feels so impossible. That’s what makes the game so charming as it is – even the smallest task feels daunting. I chose to use the mouse and keyboard as my primary means of interaction, and this could have been my first mistake, but instead it allowed me to become acclimated with the game and its strange control scheme a lot better than I feel a controller would have.
You move Octodad’s top and bottom set of tentacles independently of another, and there’s a rhythm to get down that’s hard to hammer out at first, but once you drag one tentacle out in front of the other and shamble through a church for your wedding to your gorgeous human wife, the absurdity of each situation kicks in and you’re left laughing yourself into a tizzy. Octodad haphazardly drags a lawnmower back and forth through sparse greenery in the backyard as his children look on. A trip to the supermarket goes from innocuous to a deadly scavenger hunt, complete with sushi chef trying to make Octodad into one special meal. Even the simple act of bringing your daughter a cup of chocolate milk is hilariously awkward.
Each level is grouped into specific tasks that sound easy as pie for regular human fathers, but Octodad makes a hilarious spectacle of himself when it comes to going to the aquarium or making coffee. Completed tasks are marked off the list, with each level culminating in a “boss” encounter with your greatest arch-enemies. These battles are short, but they pack miniature adrenaline rushes into a small space and can break up the monotony that may build from how singularly frustrating some tasks are.
It’s incredibly funny to watch Octodad flail around while trying to climb up a statue made of soda cans and fail miserably, but it’s another to get stuck because of an infuriating camera angle or Octodad’s refusal to grip certain items. While most of the time these actions make for some giggle-worthy encounters, other, more gentle operations require finesse that Dadliest Catch simply doesn’t always offer. Fortunately, these areas are few and far between, allowing you to power through the annotated campaign as quickly as you please. The game itself is extremely short, but its abundance of lighthearted humor, “mundane” tasks that escalate as quickly as you want to tear through each level, and the surreal absurdity that’s attached to going through life as an octopus. Even the kids question how in the world their existence makes any sense.
I surmise you will as well, but who cares when you’ve got a game this tongue-in-cheek and clever to play through matched up against the droves of other copycat me-too clone shooters out there? Octodad: Dadliest Catch is a friendly and gentle choice for those looking for a bit of a different vice or even younger players who aren’t quite ready to take the plunge for a more violent adventure. We need more games like this one, even if it’s just for laughs.