In Octodad, you play as an octopus inexplicably dressed in human clothes and somehow possessed of a family who must keep his secret at all costs.
That’s the entire thing – invertebrate creature from the deep posing as a dude who has somehow fathered children that must remain oblivious to the tentacles.
To do that, the player must control Octodad through a number of normal day-to-day activities while keeping your actions more or less bipedal and destruction to a minimum. It’s an inspired and spare premise and one which developers Young Horses have a lot of fun with. And it’s backed up by equally straightforward mechanics.
With the controller, you’ll manipulate each of Octodad’s ‘legs’ and his upper tentacles individually. Triggers raise your feet while the left and right stick move them in a given direction and you can raise and lower your arms and move them in space, as well as grab items.
This kind of intricate controls scheme is a nice idea in theory but when it comes to actually performing even the most simple task things quickly take a turn for the chaotic. You’ll fling your arm out to grab an item, catch something else instead and try to walk away but end up destroying some nearby furniture instead.
Octodad is hilarious to play and even more fun to watch. Our hero’s constant flailing and total lack of control is the obvious highlight, as is the ease with which you can create total chaos. He simply can’t do anything well at all, but gamely perseveres in every task just to keep his family happy.
Our leading man knows he’s an octopus but is genuinely determined to work as hard as he can to avoid disappointing his wife and kids. He toils from one location to the next, barely escaping death at the hands of an evil sushi chef and burbling amiably through every hardship. It’s a genuinely sweet aside to see the lengths he goes to, something of a testament to the dedication of parents everywhere. And also just a really funny story about a cephalopod who is seriously out of his depth.
The two to three hours of Octodad take you from home to the grocery store and the aquarium for a series of fairly mundane tasks. The controls are utterly strange and take a while to get used to but you’ll find your way eventually. Slightly more problematic is the lack of diversity – you’ll essentially be doing the same kinds of minor puzzles for the entire 2-3 hour running time.
And while the whacky controls and movements of the game are basically the entire point they can lead to frustration, especially if you happen to get stuck in the scenery or just can’t grab the item you’re looking for. Awkward camera angles contribute to this issue but when its part of the design of the game its hard to really criticise the controls too much.
You’ll find some added value in the multiplayer, which lets up to four players control the individual limbs of the character. That’s quickly becomes chaotic as you all try to co-ordinate and could lead to you losing long time friends. But in a good way. And you can also root out your PS Move wand thing for a completely different kind of control scheme.
Octodad has a fun tone and some great one liners as well as central gameplay mechanics which make for side-splitting ridiculousness. The graphics may be simple and the story limited but it’s every inch a budget indie game and one of the more accomplished I’ve played in terms of its execution.