From the moment it was announced, Octodad: Dadliest Catch sprung straight to the top of our most wanted list. Bundled in amongst a collection of other indie games on stage at giant games convention, E3, it would be easy to miss were it not for one reason - it was completely and utterly insane.
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As is the way with most genius, it starts with a simple enough premise. The titular Octodad is an everyday, common or seabed octopus, pretending to be a person. With a wife and kids (although who knows where they came from) to look after, while other games have bombastic storylines about saving the world, all Octodad has to do is go about his day to day family life. The only problem is... well, he's an octopus. And that means he doesn't have any bones. In fact, he can barely even stand up straight for any prolonged periods of time without flopping about all over the place - and so, your challenge is to get things done, as normally as he
humanly octopusly can, without arousing suspicion.
Each level in the game follows a fairly normal, everyday scenario. The first level takes place at the wedding, where you have to guide your cephalopod friend down the aisle; the next sees you flipping burgers and mowing the lawn (!?); and the the next has you doing the weekly shop in a supermarket. All simple enough, you'd think - but remember, this is an octopus we're talking about - and that makes this slapstick at its finest.
Everything here has been designed to cause chaos - from the banana peels that seem to litter the entire land (from wedding aisle to the fruit and veg counter at the shops), to the barmy controls, that seem to have been designed to be as manic as possible.
The L2 and R2 buttons are used to lift each of Octodad's legs, with the thumbsticks used to move them around. It's not as simple as just pushing the stick and watching Octodad slither his way to where you tell him - instead, you have full control over Octodad's limbs, even if sometimes you wish you hadn't. When you're not holding L2 or R2, the left and right sticks let you control Octodad's arm (singular), while L1 lets you grab onto things, if you need to pick something up.
Sounds simple enough, but what you end up with is sheer hilarity. Flopping and wobbling all over the place, Octodad is about as steady as a jelly in an earthquake, and it's impossible to stop him careering off course, or looking like he's slowly deflating into the nearest freezer. Even when you're trying to be careful, his limbs seem to have a mind of their own, as you'll fling a bottle of tomato sauce into the stratosphere, before accidentally wrapping your arm (tentacle?) around your child's throat, when all you were trying to do was put some sauce on his burger. It's genuinely laugh out loud stuff - and a game the Playstation 4's Share button was designed for, as you'll be sharing so many clips, your friends will be sick of you.
And the chaos only gets worse. Not content with creating the oddest control scheme known to man, the team at Young Horses have made it better in the only way you could ever really improve on a game like Octodad - by adding multiplayer. Yes, if you have four DualShock 4 controllers, you and three friends can each take control of one of Octodad's limbs - and if you thought you were having trouble co-ordinating yourself before, you try getting an octopus around a supermarket with all four limbs trying to move in separate directions.
While they may all be based around everyday activities, each of the levels in Octodad has been designed to make things as awkward - and therefore as funny - as possible. Whether you're having to navigate your way across a narrow ledge, make your way down the aforementioned wedding aisle (which is lined with plinths you can easily send flying), or making your way around an adventure playground, each level is overflowing with potential for slip ups (in a good way).
While there's no health bar as such, you do have a detection bar at the bottom of the screen, which fills up as you do things that any normal human being wouldn't be doing. Oddly enough, while that doesn't include putting your leg behind your ear in the middle of an aquarium, or even demolishing an entire gift shop in front of the staff, it does include crashing into to people, knocking over priceless objects, or simply being in the line of sight of a dastardly marine biologist. As posters all around the aquarium - a hub for the later stages of the game - let you know, marine biologists know a fish when they see one - and so you need try and stay out of sight. When you can barely walk in a straight line, that's easier said than done.
In fact, throughout the whole game, Octodad never feels less than an incredibly tightly made game, with everything there for a reason, and every level packed full of obstacles for you to overcome. The only potential problem, perhaps, is that it feels like it's all over too quickly, almost like it's missing another two or three levels. Perhaps that's just a sign of how much we enjoyed playing it, but Octodad doesn't seem to last quite as long as we'd hope.
That said, there is plenty of reason to replay here. Each level has three carefully hidden ties for you to find - and unlike collectables on other games, actually figuring out how to reach these is part of the challenge. One of the earlier ones asks you to scale a ladder, strut across a ticket booth roof, stretch across to a ledge, and then scoot around a corner, across a great divide, and then down yet another ledge to reach the tie at the end of it. Another great one that takes advantage of Octodad's unique skills is hidden in a vending machine. Press the button, and the spiral will turn, but the tie doesn't drop out. Disaster! Or it would be for a normal person. Luckily, you can use your superior dual analogue stick controls to navigate Octodad's handily flexible arm up through the slot, and into the machine, before claiming your prize. It's genius - but it may take you a while to figure out what you have to do. The game's trophies are similarly creative - but each gives you a reason to go back through the game and play again.
Despite being slightly shorter than we'd hoped, Octodad is lives up to pretty much every expectation we'd ever had. It's original, it's funny, and it's absolutely crazy fun in multiplayer with a group of friends. While it's also out on PC, Octodad also just so happens to be a PS4 exclusive, and is up there with Infamous as the best PS4 game available right now. As the game's Kickstarter page originally laid out, this is the best octopus fatherhood simulation the world has ever seen. Hopefully, it won't be the last.
Format Reviewed: Playstation 4