Sunday, November 12, 2017

Review: Octodad: Dadliest Catch


For the uninitiated, since this is the first “physics game” to come to the Switch, Octodad will be a somewhat unusual experience. In this genre wonky controls are, to some degree, a given and part of the hook, turning actions that would normally be simple or even trivial into a silly mess of flailing, moving awkwardly, and often making a mess of everything in sight. While this can be aggravating the other element that usually comes along with these controls is an element of humor and even absurdity so that the struggle can at least be an entertaining one.


Embracing that concept fully, Octodad - Dadliest Catch puts you in the role of the title character, who is somehow married and taking care of 2 children (the less questions you ask, the better, just giggle along and accept it) while being an octopus dressed as a human and generally trying to avoid the normal people around him from finding out. Whether that entails doing some chores around the house, running errands, or participating in family trips you’ll be amazed at how complicated performing even the most mundane things can be when you’re doing them as an octopus. Does that sound absolutely preposterous but still kind of awesome? Then this will be a game for you!

Mechanically what you’ll need to know is that you’ll use the Z shoulder buttons to get Octodad to walk, with each side triggering a leg. While you hold down that button you’ll be able to often awkwardly maneuver his respective leg tentacle around in 3D space. If this sounds complicated, it absolutely is, but again that’s a part of the experience in this genre. While doing something like walking isn’t so hard, in particular doing something like go up a ladder can be somewhat maddening as the suckers on his feet won’t always be enough to keep him in place as the physics of his body weight going off the side will make him fall. The other piece of the puzzle will be trying to grab things with one of your hand tentacles and then try to move things where they need to go. This type of play tends to be divisive with some people tiring of the overly cumbersome controls and others embracing how ridiculous it all can be.


Where the game runs into trouble, even considering the target style, is sometimes in the lack of your ability to control the camera and the angle the game assumes you want to be looking depending on your task. With both analog sticks occupied with the 3D movement the lack of direct control is perhaps unavoidable, and the majority of the time the camera works quite well, but you will hit spots where it is less than optimal and you’ll find yourself fighting to see what you need to do. Another issue is that some objectives you need to meet in order to progress aren’t very well-defined and there are no more detailed checklists of related tasks you may need to complete to satisfy them. Again, this didn’t come up too often but there were a few times where what I needed to do or what direction I needed to go in weren’t very clear and it slowed down the enjoyment I had otherwise. One element that’s always present in the game is a gauge that roughly measures how badly you’re screwing up and whether humans around you may discover your secret. I’m happy to say I didn’t often run into issues with it, that element of the game is quite forgiving, but at the same time that almost made me think it wasn’t worth having as it is implemented.

What will likely either attract people to Octodad or scare them away will be its unorthodox control and style of play. If you’re looking for a serious challenge with tight controls and impeccable level design you will very much come away disappointed. If, however, you’re open to the experience and the humor of it all Octodad is an excellent representation of the genre as a whole and plays very well as a handheld game to boot. If you’re looking for a major change of pace on the Switch Octodad will be happy to help you out with that!


Score: 8

Pros:
  • Manages to inject absurd humor into everyday tasks and events
  • A light-hearted story and overall experience make it pretty unique in the Switch library
  • As a representative of the style of game it is among the best
Cons:
  • There are times when the camera simply doesn’t want to cooperate
  • Sometimes objectives can be tough to satisfy because you don’t know what sub-item for it hasn’t been satisfied
  • The meter tied to how at risk you are of being discovered seems half-baked though thankfully it at least isn’t often a problem


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