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Octodad: Dadliest Catch

That Octodad: Dadliest Catch spells out its premise in its catchy opening theme song should come as little surprise – this is a ridiculous game. You wouldn’t expect developer Young Horses to evolve this absurd concept much beyond a simple, wacky tech demo, yet here we are. With a move so bold as to take the antics of a wildly gesticulating octopus and build an entire game around it, Octodad is so gutsy, so stupid and so utterly charming, that you can’t help but let it sweep you off your feet – at least until its final act.

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Despite very obviously being an octopus, nobody – other than an antagonistic chef – has any clue, least of all his wife and two kids. With a bizarre control scheme at your fingertips, which maps one of Octodad’s leg tentacles to each trigger and his right arm tentacle to the thumbsticks, you’re left to go about your day as a cephalopod trying to blend in with humankind. For much of the game you’re tasked with completing menial everyday activities like turning off an alarm clock, mowing the lawn or shopping for groceries, with the intentionally ineffective control scheme making this much more difficult than it sounds.

“You’ll go to make a cup of coffee and end up overturning a table, smashing a bunch of plates and thumping your wife over the head with the coffee mug”While the game’s writing is strong with its fair share of humorous gags, most of Octodad’s hilarity is derived from his struggles performing these mundane tasks. You’ll go to make a cup of coffee and end up overturning a table, smashing a bunch of plates and thumping your wife over the head with the coffee mug. It’s absolute chaos and seeing Octodad flail around never stops being funny. To abide by the ‘blending in’ theme there is a fail state if you’re too suspicious in front of prying eyes, but it takes so much to activate that it’s basically a non-issue until later on, giving you free reign to cause as much accidental mayhem as possible.

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Part of the reason this absurdity works so well is because it’s grounded in such an ordinary world. Octodad sticks out like a sore thumb with his painstakingly obvious appearance and gargled dialogue, yet everyone remains oblivious. This leads to some surprisingly heartfelt moments as he tries to converse with his family and struggles with his double life, and it actually makes him endearing. It’s when it tries to wrap up this brief story that the cracks start to show.

Past a point the everyday tasks are chalked off as Octodad encroaches on well-worn videogame territory. As the villainous chef steps up his efforts to unveil Octodad’s true, aquatic identity, more enemies are introduced and you’re forced into some obnoxious stealth sections. The awkward controls work fine when you’re completing simple activities at your own leisure, but once it asks you to perform more strenuous feats of navigation it descends into irritating bouts of trial-and-error.

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Octodad wastes its last two chapters pigeonholing its wackiness atop traditional videogames challenges”By the end you’re dodging enemy attacks and having to quickly navigate across treacherous platforms, succeeding more through sheer luck than anything else. When it’s goofy fun the controls are fine, but Octodad wastes its last two chapters pigeonholing its wackiness atop traditional videogames challenges, making the controls terribly frustrating. It zaps away any positive momentum it earned going in, especially when the otherwise enjoyable narrative is hastily wrapped up by ditching certain aspects that made it so loveable in the first place.

For a game that’s a little over an hour long, it’s incredibly disappointing that it spoils the latter half of what little time it has. Its brevity isn’t much of an issue otherwise – the mechanics would probably wear thin if stretched out too long, and there’s Steam Workshop support for user-created levels, plus a clever co-op mode where up to four players can control different limbs.

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Despite its late-game flaws I’m just so surprised the team at Young Horses managed to make this ludicrous concept work as a fully-fledged game that I still wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it. What comes before is so genuinely funny and enjoyable that you’d have to have a phobia of the eight-tentacled invertebrates to miss out on Octodad‘s demented brand of cartoon humour.

7 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is a Senior Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in June 2008. Get in touch on Twitter @richardwakeling.

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