Normally, when a game has crappy unintuitive controls it’s a deal breaker. After all, if you can’t control the game properly what’s the point in playing? This is not the case with Octodad: Dadliest Catch. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. Dadliest Catch may have the worst control scheme of any game I’ve ever played, and that’s the entire point.
You take the role of Octodad, an octopus from the depths of the oceans who is jealous of the wonderful lives that we homo-sapiens lead. Thinking that he too could be human, he crawls up onto land, wriggles his tentacles into a suit and falls in love with a beautiful woman with whom he raises a family. Unfortunately, there is no time for the inquisitive minds of the internet to ask questions about how cross-species human/octopus mating works, because a dangerous sushi chef is out to expose Octodad’s true identity and make him lose his happy and idyllic suburban life. The only thing Octodad can do to keep himself safe is to hide in plain sight.
Unfortunately, masquerading around as a human father is difficult for a creature without a spine, and Octodad’s controls do their best to simulate that. On a controller, you have to alternate between controlling Octodad’s arm tentacles and leg tentacles. When controlling his arm, you use one stick to move it along the X- and Y-axis and another stick to move it along the Z-axis. You then use a trigger to suck and unsuck onto items and areas of the environment. When controlling his legs, you use the triggers to suck and unsuck them from the ground, raising them off the floor, and then use the sticks to move them forward, backward, or from side to side. No, there isn’t a walk button in Octodad. Instead, you must put one foot in front of the other and learn to walk all over again.
The controls are also very loose, causing Octodad’s limbs to flail wildly at the tiniest flick of a stick, but this is what makes the game so much fun. You’ll try to open a door and you’ll accidentally tear it off its hinges. You’ll attempt to clean a window and will punch your head right through it. Your attempts to clean the house simply make a bigger mess and don’t even think about brewing a pot of coffee. Octodad is a one man wrecking crew that leaves hilarious chaos and destruction in his wake, and you’ll be rolling on the floor as you struggle with the difficulties of walking, let alone getting dressed in the morning.
When Octodad is in private, he can act like a weird cephalopod all he likes. It’s when he’s in public that he needs to watch his tentacle-y ways. If a bystander notices him flopping around as he tries to open a jar of pickles, their suspicions will raise. If people get too suspicious then his cover will be blown. Thus, we are brought to the simple but enjoyable goal of the game: act normal. It’s easier said than done when you are basically struggling against the controls the whole time.
Octodad: Dadliest Catch gives you a variety of equally borked control schemes to have fun with. If a controller isn’t your style, don’t worry, you can always flail around Octodad’s tentacles with a keyboard and mouse. There are even control schemes for touch screens and track pads, and they are all equally flaily and loose. If you really want to turn the hilarity up to 11, try playing the game in co-op mode. In this mode, you team up with up to 3 other friends to all control Octodad’s limbs at once. Each limb is controlled by a separate player and you’ll all have to work together to even manage to get Octodad out of bed in the morning.
The PC version of Octodad has one more feature that the console version will not when it arrives: a map editor. The editor allows you to quickly and easily create your own scenarios to destroy with Octodad’s uncoordinated tentacles. You can spend a ton of time playing wacky levels made by other Octodad players. Perhaps Octodad needs to be a pitcher in a baseball game? Or maybe he needs to walk a family pet? It adds a lot of replay value to the game once you have mastered all of it’s core stages.
Octodad isn’t the next big AAA hit, nor is it a tear jerking indie masterpiece of storytelling. However, you do grow to care about this Octopus and his family. Characters, though cartoony in presentation, show quite a bit of real emotion. The family’s concern for their floppy father tugs at your heartstrings and keeps you caring about what would otherwise be a flavorless destruction simulator. It’s a comedy, but it’s a comedy with a heartwarming family message that is told through the unintelligible blubbers of a deep one. In a world filled with violent shooters, ultra-hard RPGs and mobile games that suck your money out of you via microtransactions, it’s nice to have a good wholesome game about a typical suburban Dad… who just so happens to also be an octopus.
This review was based on a retail copy of the PC version of Octodad: Dadliest Catch.