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Game Review for ‘Octodad: Dadliest Catch’

Oftentimes games are built with a specific mechanic in mind, and then a story and a concept are built around said mechanic. But occasionally those two ideas work in tandem, either to stunning effect or simply to instill a little charm in the player.

Octodad: Dadliest Catch, for example, chooses to blend a pretty simple, yet utterly comical, mechanic with a story that’s equally goofy. In the end, however, the mechanic and the barebones story don’t necessarily coalesce into something that’s deep or involved. There’s no denying Octodad has charm, but the game sheds some of its goodwill as time goes on.

The story of Octodad: Dadliest Catch will be familiar to those who played Young Horses‘ original freeware version. Players take control of Octodad, an octopus posing as a doting husband and father, and do their best to complete everyday tasks without drawing undue suspicion. The premise alone is reason to take notice of Octodad: it’s appropriately absurd, and the design is instantly endearing. But, whereas in the first game players were restricted to Octodad’s living room, Dadliest Catch expands the game to several new areas, including the grocery store, an aquarium, a fishing boat, and the backyard. It’s certainly a substantial offering for a game built on one mechanic.

Speaking of that mechanic, it’s pretty darn hilarious. Never has a game more accurately tried to recreate a situation than in Octodad, taking in all that it means to be a clumsy octopus masquerading as a human. For a better indication of the gameplay, and how exactly it works, make sure to check out our first impressions and gameplay video post, but rest assured the best part of playing Octodad is wreaking a calculated amount of havoc. That means flailing about just enough so as not to fail any one puzzle, which happens when Octodad draws too much attention, but making sure that Octodad still looks extremely awkward while doing even the simplest of tasks.

There is really nothing quite like watching a bulbous yellow octopus try his best to pour milk, or buy pizza, or win the affections of his wife. That’s where Octodad: Dadliest Catch finds its sweet spot, in its variety of tasks and the different ways players can complete them. That isn’t to say Octodad is a game with dozens of possibilities, in most cases the solution is obvious, but getting Octodad in position and actually completing the action can be a lot of fun.

Unfortunately, many of the the game’s tasks boil down to very rote actions like grabbing an object from one point and moving it to another, or even just moving forward, albeit octopus-style. It’s here where the game starts to lose momentum, and becomes less about the fun of maneuvering Octodad and more about “going through the motions.” Couple that with the requirement to complete tasks without drawing too much attention, and the game becomes a little uneven and occasionally frustrating. Expect to struggle at some pretty obvious puzzles, and although the struggle mostly works in tandem with the game’s conceit, that’s not always true. And when there’s struggle, every bit of Octodad‘s charm rubs off.

Similarly, while the loose controls work well within the context of the game, the balance between understandably frustrating and actually frustrating isn’t always perfectly struck. Since players are controlling an octopus it makes sense when tasks become slightly more challenging, but occasionally that challenge is a little too great. Again, that could very well be by design, but is no less frustrating to the player.

There’s also a free-play mode for levels that gives players free reign to let their inner octopus loose. Here’s where the game is the most fun, as players toy with the game’s hilarious physics and cause untold amounts of damage. Had there been no free-play mode, and players were forced into the main campaign, Octodad‘s shortcomings would not have been as easy to tolerate. As it stands, though, the game has a surprising amount of options. There’s also a multiplayer option where two players can control different parts of Octodad. It’s equally chaotic and a novel idea, but it’s mostly a one trick pony.

Octodad: Dadliest Catch knows exactly what type of experience it wants to deliver and, for the most part, it succeeds in doing so. The mechanics work well and the concept is charming and enjoyable. But a few rough patches will likely keep players from seeing the game as anything more than a pleasant distraction or a fun sandbox to mess around in. Luckily, Octodad is a relatively short experience, and even when it starts to get a little dull or frustrating, there’s always something different for Octodad to struggle to do. Not everyone will embrace Octodad‘s unconventional approach towards what is a “fun” gaming experience, but those who do will come away, at the very least, smiling.

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