Octodad: Dadliest Catch Review

  • First Released Oct 31, 2011
  • PC

Flailing away.

For a typical hero like Superman, saving dozens of people from a burning building may be all in a day's work. But Octodad is a different kind of hero, one whose struggles remind us that the trials and tribulations of everyday life can be tough for us all. You see, Octodad has carved out an ordinary life for himself as a husband and father, but secretly, he's an octopus, which makes living this ordinary life especially difficult. Ordinary tasks like making coffee and mowing the lawn are acts that require determination and heroism when you've got flailing octopus tentacles instead of human hands. Initially, the juxtaposition of common domestic situations with the gleefully absurd concept makes Octodad: Dadliest Catch a delightful comic romp. However, as the game progresses, it gets away from its spirit of leisurely whimsy, with stealth sequences and boss battles that don't play to the strengths of Octodad's goofy controls.

Simply walking around takes more focus in Octodad than it does in your typical game, because you must hold the left and right bumpers to raise your left or right "legs" and then maneuver those legs around with thumbsticks. It's almost impossible to walk around as Octodad without knocking over objects left and right, and that's a big part of the fun. Here you are, an octopus in a tuxedo on your wedding day, walking down the aisle, making a complete mess of things, and yet nobody suspects a thing. Like walking around, interacting with objects is also a lot more complicated for Octodad than it is for your typical video game hero. The fact that you use one thumbstick to move your "arm" horizontally and another to move it vertically fills tasks like grilling burgers and shopping for groceries with the potential for hilarious physical comedy.

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The early stages aren't challenging in the least, and this works in the game's favor. You can just relax and laugh at yourself as your attempts to do ordinary things are rendered anything but ordinary by the fact that you are an octopus. But before long, Dadliest Catch loses its way. Despite Octodad's burbled objections, the family takes a trip to the local aquarium. Octodad is terrified of the aquarium because the marine biologists there, with their exhaustive knowledge of sea creatures and their remarkable powers of deductive reasoning, can see through his carefully constructed disguise and determine that he is, in fact, no ordinary father, but a cephalo-pop. You must sneak around these marine biologists, and once the game starts actually demanding some degree of physical prowess from you, the looseness and complexity that previously made the controls fun to grapple with suddenly make them frustrating.

Yeah, this could be a little tricky.
Yeah, this could be a little tricky.

It's hard to see the humor in a situation when you find yourself failing it repeatedly and applying trial and error to find a path that might successfully take you through a treacherous environment. Additionally, the activities you have to complete at the aquarium lack the domestic quality that makes the first few stages so amusing. The game is at its funniest when it puts the absurd Octodad in ordinary situations. It's a lot less funny when the situations he's placed in are as absurd as he is.

There also just aren't enough situations in Octodad in general. You can easily complete the game in about two hours, and it ends up feeling like an incomplete experience that doesn't come close to fulfilling its potential. Although the flimsy narrative couldn't be more cliche in its communication of a message about loving ourselves and each other for who we really are, Octodad is an endearing hero whose struggle to live an ordinary life under extraordinary circumstances is bizarrely inspiring. Unfortunately, Dadliest Catch is just an inconsistent, intermittently hilarious trifle, and not the game this terrific character deserves.

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The Good

  • Controls make simple tasks comically difficult
  • Humorously places an absurd character in ordinary domestic situations

The Bad

  • Becomes less enjoyable as it becomes more demanding
  • Feels like an insubstantial trifle rather than a complete experience

About the Author

Carolyn is not secretly an octopus living as a human, but her life has nonetheless taught her a thing or two about the importance of self-acceptance. She played through most of Dadliest Catch's stages twice for this review.