There was a period of time where the evolution of game streaming was really focused on the ridiculousness of seeing someone play a complicated game. QWOP, the granddaddy of hilarious controls, was one of the first frustrating but funny situations I could enjoy other people going through. And there have been several since then, but none have stuck out in my mind quite like Octodad. Finally, the cephalopod simulator has come to the Nintendo Switch.
Octodad: Dadliest Catch is what happens when Chicken Boo from the Animaniacs gets a feature length game. You, an octopus, have managed to infiltrate the human world undetected, fallen in love, gotten married, and inexplicably fathered two human children. You love your life, you love your wife, and you love being a sea creature living out their days while posing as a person. It’s never really revealed why so many people are mostly fooled by the disguise, but whatever, it’s not meant to make sense. The point is, you have your own life to live, which means performing chores, going on family adventures, and actively avoiding an insane chef who is the ONLY person who sees you for what you are, and wants to cook you as a result.
Octodad relies on three important factors to work as a game: difficult controls, simple tasks and unrelenting humor. You need to work both joysticks at once in order to move around a single tentacle, a secondary button to pick up or activate things, and a strange pendulum of give and take in order to walk. Since you’re an octopus, your legs are, well, boneless and suction-cupped, and you can easily end up trapped somewhere you didn’t mean to go because you swing your limbs around wildly. People will eventually notice that something is up when you can’t walk down a grocery store aisle without knocking into and over everything along the way. Once you get spotted or draw too much attention, it’s game over, and you gotta try the task again.
Most, if not all, of the enjoyment of Octodad comes from the mistakes that you make. One of the first tasks you have to do is grill hamburgers, which sounds easy but requires a certain level of dexterity and depth perception that you might not normally possess. You can’t really adjust the camera angles, so needing to gauge where and when to move the patties becomes a bit of a chore. Accidentally flinging it like a frisbee into my daughter’s head was not the intention of this barbeque, but it was easily the most fun part. And, thankfully, Young Horses Inc. has the common sense to make sure this game, although cartoonishly violent at times, is not visceral or actually damaging. When I end up running myself over with the lawnmower, I don’t bleed. My daughter instantly forgave me when I tried to put the cereal in the shopping cart and, instead, threw it the length of the store.
But the wonky controls are something you have to live with for the whole game, and the minor mistakes can get tiring. At one point, I needed to win and give six stuffed animals to my wife in order to help move the story along. Somewhere around the 4th, I couldn’t find a good angle anymore to give her the toys, and I just kept whacking her in the head with a little bear instead of presenting my affection. It’s still funny, but the humor grows stale when I really want to finish a task and move onto the next scene. Thankfully, I was able to eventually gift my bride everything, and, after stopping up the flooding room, it was onto the next leg of the family adventure.
The graphics are something that also lend a ton to the entire Octodad experience. Everything is properly cartoonish, with the characters popping on the screen and everything being sufficiently colorful and inoffensive. It’s almost as though the game keeps reminding you, through its own atmosphere and presentation, not to take it too seriously: you’re an octopus in a dapper blue suit. Not everything needs to be on the level.
The Nintendo Switch is also a great place for Octodad with the inclusion of co-op mode, something that I don’t remember from my olden days of playing it on Steam. The controls, already something insane to deal with, become a gut-busting situation of trying to scream commands at each other while dying of laughter. You can set which limbs are controlled by which person, or have the game randomize it entirely, which leads to even further chaos. I was already quite well versed in the game, but having someone who hasn’t played before being in control of exactly half an octopus was a great way to spend the afternoon. Naturally. We adjusted the difficulty level so that we were less noticed by people. Hardcore octopi can set it to “hard” in order to practice the ultimate in tentacled espionage.
Octodad: Dadliest Catch is one of those titles that you always want to introduce to people over and over again. It’s fun and difficult without being offensive or punishing. There isn’t a Dark Souls edge to it that makes it rough on new players, but accidentally getting tangled around a sunglasses stand because you literally can’t figure out how to walk is something everyone can enjoy. Older title or not, the Nintendo Switch is an open invitation to all of the great indie titles that many console players may have overlooked, and Octodad is certainly the catch of the day.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.