Although less convincing than a trenchcoated, bowler-hatted, fake-mustachioed comic strip schoolboy standing on a chum’s shoulders, no one but the most scrutinous marine biologist or a curiously homicidal chef nemesis can see through Octodad’s piss-poor disguise. It's Dadliest Catch's running gag, where living a lie is taken to preposterous extremes and deceiving loved ones is the aim of the game.
While the premise of an octopus masquerading as a family man conjures up oddball 8-bit cassette tape games of my youth, the unconventional control scheme recalls clumsily pawing at the dashboard in ursine driving simulator Enviro-Bear 2000 – Operation: Hibernation, or manipulating an uncooperative flailing limb in flawed late-90s FPS Jurassic Park: Trespasser – albeit here, input impediment is a deliberate choice and core mechanic.
The game is a trial of adaptation. As Octodad struggles to maintain his cover as a husband and father, arms contorted into a besuited, bipedal sham, we are forced to deal with the restrictions such an unnatural scenario entails. Progress is shambolic, with compact, stealth-lite levels masking the dexterity required to synchronise limbs and perform usually straightforward manoeuvres. Octodad’s desperate, blundering efforts to keep his act up against all odds felt reminiscent of my fraught experiences arriving home drunk as a teenager, attempting a show of sobriety while swaying and slurring.
Though movement is tricky to master – even after practice, an elegant pirouette can swiftly slip into a ragdoll impersonation, accidentally roundhouse kicking suspicious NPCs in the face – Octodad’s signature lollop is especially pleasing, and getting timing down pat in the four-legged race of co-op mode can elicit a balletic sense of coordination. I found using a controller more intuitive than thrashing the mouse around.
Octodad is an engaging, unique game which crashes the everyday and the uncanny head-on with aplomb, and one particularly enjoyable to onlookers. Simple tasks inevitably degenerate into Buster Keaton-evoking farces – with soundtrack nods to silent film accompanists to boot – and my only gripes with Dadliest Catch are an occasionally wayward camera and a few cruel difficulty spikes necessitating repetition of short sections ad nauseam. Otherwise, it’s a blast.
Played for 5 hours.