A prolonged gag on the edge of trolling, Octodad: Dadliest Catch is a ragdoll physics game with a stupidly fun premise, as hinted at in the playful title. You flail about through mundane scenarios and fatherly duties made bizarre by the fact that, well, you’re an octopus in a rather dapper business suit.
Deceit is the key as this is one cephalopod who desperately wants to blend in despite his obvious lack of bones. Thankfully, his human wife and kids are blissfully unaware, but there’s a chef determined to chop him up into a “moderately priced sushi roll” and some suspicious suburban dwellers to contend with.
The ten missions that comprise the game are a series of everyday tasks that Octodad must complete without revealing his nautical nature. Controlling his flimsy legs and useless noodle of an arm by dragging the mouse is the backbone of the game, though the protagonist himself is without a spine.
Dotted eye-lines of passers-by follow the bumbling mess as you inadvertently get the poor octopus tangled up in his own tentacles and wedged in awkward social situations. Precariously placed objects add to the monstrous task of maintaining his homosapien guise, but the real obstacle is Octodad’s limp body.
Evoking golden-era cartoons like Tom & Jerry, the shining element here is physical comedy. If the prospect of an octopus inconspicuously grilling burgers and mowing the lawn doesn’t elicit a chuckle, then the game will only annoy you with the intentionally imprecise controls and the wacky nature of the simple plot line.
A slapstick comedy recalling, but not quite emulating, QWOP and Surgeon Simulator, Octodad refrains from getting too painfully difficult, though it does present a constant challenge. Unfortunately, the chaotic charm of the gameplay fizzles out somewhat when faced with a barrage of stealth sequences towards the end.
The descent into traditional tropes such as predictable boss fights undermines the promise of a quirkier experience. While initially seeming to deviate from convention, this is still a game adhering to certain rules, albeit with a distinct sense of ambition. Conveniently, Octodad is over in two hours, meaning that the amusement of fumbling about and the not-so-subtle references don’t have enough time to truly get old.
The story is endearing, though short and undemanding so as to maintain focus on the more complex gameplay. The ridiculousness of the plot can deplete any emotional connection available between the player and the octopus, but the trials and tribulations of an outsider desperate to fit in is touching.
If the attempt to warm your heart leaves you cold, Octodad is certain to make you laugh at its absurdity and cry with sheer frustration.