A Fishy Situation
Coming hot off the heels of The Last of Us Part II, I needed something a little lighter, something a little more cheerful. Thankfully, Octodad was there to greet me for the irresistible price of £2.89, an enticing sorbet to cleanse the palette of dread and violence instilled over the 25-hour run time of The Last of Us.
Octodad is developed by Young Horses, the minds behind the recently revealed Bugsnax, which looks great by the way and released in 2014. You play as an octopus and father of two, juggling the trials of fatherhood with the secret of your maritime origins which remains hidden to the rest of the world. It is a novel premise for sure and leads to some of the hardest challenges in the game simply being to climb a ladder or mow the garden. It is a fantastic plot which I’m sure could carry it’s own web comic for years. After seeing the trailer for Bugsnax, I should’ve expected a brilliant theme song, but it did take me by surprise. It is so catchy and you should check it out on Spotify when you get a moment.
A lot of the appeal of this game is in the humour too, if this doesn’t sound like your bag, I can’t imagine you having a great time with this, I’ll say that from the top.
Camouflage and Ink
From a visuals and aesthetic perspective, the game is dated at best. Being from 2014, made with a presumably tiny budget, this isn’t a knock against the game at all. The dated and janky feel to it all actually served to reinforce the silliness of the whole thing. Character models are odd-looking, particularly eyes and mouths, it looks like a Nickelodeon cartoon mixed with those old cutscenes from Theme Hospital. Thankfully, these oddities do not carry over to our protagonist who looks cartoonish and expressive in all the right ways. Environments look plain and bland, which is the point, being grounded in reality. This also stops the game being so busy since traversal in this game can be a hilariously frustrating nightmare.
Aside from the aforementioned title track, there is only one other track in the game which is note-worthy, it happens at a moment I won’t spoil here in case you decide to pick it up. I mean, the main campaign lasted about 3 hours for me, and I am terrible at games like this, I’m not expecting an epic original soundtrack by any means.
Sea Legs or Sea Sick?
How does it play though? Well, from someone who got far too angry with Human Fall Flat, pretty good. I aren’t usually a fan of these “whacky” simulator games, crafting bad controls not capable of the precise movements required to beat it is not game design. Octodad surpasses the likes of Human Fall Flat and Surgeon Simulator by making the tasks asked of the player reasonable. I was never too daunted to give it a shot. It doesn’t require complex jumps, precise arm movements or switch pulling, and that was a smart choice. It is aided largely by the humour and this is complemented by the silly gameplay and control scheme, not reliant on it.
Using the triggers to control your “regular human legs”, you stride around using the X button to control your dominant arm. This can be used to grab items such as keys, collectibles, activate switches and the like. There isn’t a dedicated “blub” button, which is a let down, but oh well.
Each stage has a different setting and tasks range from making your morning coffee to stealing the last box of cereal out of an unsuspecting shopper’s trolley. As you clumsily waddle around these areas, you arouse suspicion from fellow humans if you do things out of the ordinary, it isn’t as frustrating as it sounds and the mechanic can be tweaked to your liking if it is too punishing. There is no way I would be able to get through this with humans thinking it was weird each time I slipped on a banana peel. In true video game fashion, once you have done your chores and tasks, there is a challenge which awaits you as a final test of your skills. This can be an assault course, a chase sequence or just an escalator. This sounds great, and in most cases it is, but there are points of frustration, if you have a short fuse, moments like a slippery ship deck and having to climb a set of stairs might tip you over the edge. Thankfully I didn’t quite get angry, that would be far too embarrassing.
The campaign is likely to last you a single night, I finished it in around 3 hours. On top of this there are other scenarios you can play through outside of the campaign, these are self-contained stories which answer questions like “how would Octodad handle a date night?”. Anyway, it really won’t last you long at all. Unless you get into the speedrunning of this game, which are frankly ridiculous.
Open or Wrapped?
How much could I recommend Octodad, well, not really that much. Unless you can get it dirt cheap like I managed to, I don’t think it quite justifies the £12 price tag. It is occasionally frustrating, usually funny and doesn’t outstay it’s welcome, but the value proposition just isn’t there for me. If you are a fan of these types of games, this is definitely the best I’ve played. It’s just a bit of fun, and that was what I needed, if it is what you need and you can spare a couple of quid, sure, but I think there are better purchases to make.