Octodad

By: James Archer

Published: November 19, 2010 Posted in: Review

Poor Octodad. Not only must he contend with his daily chores, raising his kids lovingly, and preparing for an anniversary dinner with his doting wife, he has to do it all without opposable thumbs, a skeleton, or humanity.

octodad - Trying to sit down

In the simplest possible terms, he’s an octopus who has managed to convince his family (and, presumably, society at large) that he is just a normal guy in a suit. Cue lots of ridiculous, hilarious, impossibly bendy walking animations as you control a day in the life of this devoted family man/mollusc.

A lot of this indie mini-adventure’s appeal comes from just that – walking. Every leg and arm movement is controlled entirely by mouse movements, so holding down left click and pushing forwards will make Octodad take a step forward on his left tentacle, likewise for right click. Hitting the spacebar zooms in to the amusingly-named ‘Hands Mode’, switching the mouse to wave around what daddy has made everyone think is his arm. It’s intentionally difficult and lacks precision like Octodad lacks fingernails, thus causing every objective to descend into a mad tangle of flapping limbs and haywire leg manoeuvres straight out of a certain John Cleese sketch. Most of the time it’s a very, very funny sight to behold – whilst playing kickabout with my son I tried to stride over a sofa, which rapidly got stuck underneath me, resulting in me nonchalantly shuffling towards the ball with a settee between my legs. Other times it’s a bit inappropriate, chiefly during the same game where I repeatedly missed the ball, sending a flailing squelchy appendage directly into my only son’s head.

octodad - OOh a banana

At its worst, the madcap control system is forced to wrestle with an unfriendly camera. It can be shifted left and right manually, but the your erratic movements and frequently tight level design means a worrying amount of time is spent with the top of Octodad’s bonce covering up the screen. This particular niggle comes to a head (harr dee harr) during the finale, a frustrating slog to perform what would take a fraction of a second in anything else. It’s not ruinous by any means, but considering the silly fun of the rest of the game it feels inappropriate. Not helping matters is Hands Mode, which limits your view even further, often in the opposite direction to whatever the game wants you to pick up. Coupled with an awkward lock-on (which automatically places your sucker-grip on the nearest object, seldom being the right one), the business of grabbing stuff looks very bad next to the simple joy of knocking over furnishings.

To add a bit of challenge to the endeavour of destroying everything in your house, there’s a Suspicion meter. Acting less like a human and more like a sea creature with atrocious hand-eye co-ordination drains the meter until the jig is up, so there’s a mostly welcome pressure to put on a convincing act – lest you get discovered and turned into a pile of delicious sushi. Yet even for a game about a squid in a suit, some of the offences are tough to swallow. Why is cleaning a table by swiping everything on it to the floor acceptable, but taking slightly too long to bring a child a toy is indicative of a secret octopus identity?

octodad - getting food

Wobbly detective logic aside, there’s a lot to like about Octodad. It’s colourful, charming, dripping with wit, and knows when to call it a day before the stress of manipulating a full set of slimy limbs becomes too much. For anyone with an hour to spare and is willing to brave the camera (just to clarify: it hates you), Octodad is the best game to feature a cephalopod wearing a tie in ages.

James Archer