Saturday, February 8, 2014

Octodad Review

Note: this blog has been migrated to Medium, with the articles here available to preserve permalinks. Please see this post at https://medium.com/@ianrbuck/octodad-review-73901c49cda9


Octodad started out as a student project from DePaul University, and it got quite a bit of attention when it was released in 2010. A bunch of the students who worked on the original went on to form the studio Young Horses and held a Kickstarter to make a sequel. Several years we get to experience the fruits of their labor, in the form of Octodad: Dadliest Catch.

The premise is what makes the game stick out most: you play as an octopus who is disguised as your stereotypical suburban dad. Remaining unsuspected is the point of the whole game, but of course that goal is complicated by the control scheme. In some ways it is reminiscent of Surgeon Simulator 2013, but with more ragdoll physics. When you are controlling one of Octodad's limbs you really only have control over the tip of that limb; the rest of the limb and the rest of his body will flop around wherever they feel like. The only exception is that his feet remain planted most of the time.
Much of the game involves Octodad attempting to carry out everyday tasks, such as making breakfast, mowing the lawn, and shopping for groceries. There is a "suspicion meter" that goes up when people witness you do particularly clumsy things. It is extremely difficult to lose this way though, which makes the game even more absurd.

The larger threat is a sushi chef who appears to be the only person around who realises that Octodad is not what he pretends to be. He appears from time to time to try to expose or kill Octodad. When you consider that every other character is white and the chef is a pretty terrible caricature of a Japanese chef, the game seems incredibly racist.

Polygon had an interesting article about how Octodad can be considered a metaphor for those of us who live our lives concealing something from even those who are closest to us. Most people wouldn't think of this though, especially kids like my sister who would just be delighted by the slapstick comedy.

There were some extremely frustrating segments, such as going up some down escalators and running away from the chef while trying to perform other tasks. If you are easily frustrated, I wouldn't recommend Octodad.

The game was short, coming in at about two hours for my first playthrough. The only reason I can think of to replay it would be to try the coop mode, where up to four people control his various limbs. They also wisely included support for user-created maps. I've pretty much had my fill of the game though, so I probably won't try many of those.

My recommendation would be that you go and play the original student project and if you really want more Octodad then you can go and get Dadliest Catch. I still wouldn't pay more than $10 on it though.