Octodad: Dadliest Catch (PC)
Developer: Young Horses, Inc.
Released: January 2014 (PC) / April 2014 (PS4)
Played: story complete in 1h:50min
Experience a day in the life of an average dad... who happens to secretly be an octopus. Make coffee, do your chores, shop for groceries, and take your family to the aquarium while maintaining your cover and the angry chef dedicated to exposing you.
Octodad received average review scores of 70%. Critics loved the premise and story, but were divided on whether the humour lasted and whether the gameplay mechanics were thematically appropriate or just frustrating. The last few levels were poorly received.
The game received quite a lot of bug fix patches, large alterations and improvements to the maligned late-game levels, an editor and Steam workshop functionality, and also a free extra-chaotic co-op mode where multiple players control Octodad's tentacles. Several free standalone DLC stories were also added.
One of the greatest things about Octodad is the fans. Whenever I see an Octodad thread come up on reddit, it's full of people talking about how it's great (or boring) that someone made a game about being an ordinary dad (example). Invariably a few people get confused and start going "Uh, guys, you know he's an octopus, right?" and the response is always something like "Who, this fine citizen? Obviously he's just an average guy". Priceless, every time.
I'd read a lot of this kind of stuff and heard hilarious things about the game, so I had high expectations when I finally got around to playing it. I was surprised to find it not nearly as difficult as I expected. I don't know if it makes a difference that I used an XBox controller, but for the most part it was pretty easy to do everything without arousing suspicion. What difficulty there was came mostly from the lack of control over the camera or object rotation. On the other hand, a couple of bits - the escalators and some of the games - were very difficult because they required timing.
That said, it was still hilarious. When you're concentrating on the controls and struggling just to walk normally, it's pretty intimidating to be told to make a cup of coffee or grill and serve some burgers without doing anything weird.
Obviously the premise is hilarious on its own, but a lot of what makes the game funny is the incidental dialogue. The conversations of the background people are great, full of puns and goofiness that you can easily miss if you're focused too hard on your tentacles. Additionally, there are a ton of achievements and hidden collectible ties, so it pays to look around and try things that aren't explicit objectives.
The shorts are also pretty good. The first is your first date with Scarlet where you're also mistaken for the new waiter/chef, and the second is a what if of Octodad as a hospital nurse told by his kids. These stories add a lot of precision challenges that I found lacking from the main story, which is good. Unfortunately they're marred somewhat by the same flaws I mentioned earlier - lack of camera control or object rotation - which are especially annoying when you actually need that precision. I also found that you can wreck pretty much everything and no one cares, unless you actually hit people with stuff.
Octodad is admirable in the sense that it's a true comedy game - rather than the comedy coming from voiceovers or text, the comedy comes from the actual gameplay. That's actually pretty rare. In fact I can't think of too many others. The concept is perfect, the story is pretty good, and gameplay complements it well, but there are some flaws that get pretty frustrating, especially in the shorts. Be aware that it's quite short, but the benefit is that it isn't long enough to get really annoying.