Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Octodad: Dadliest Catch

Shortly after the success of the original Octodad, eight of the original members of the DePaul University student team formed Young Horses and launched a successful Kickstarter for a sequel, originally titled Octodad 2. Over two years later, the final game launched as Octodad: Dadliest Catch in 2014 to good success, making over $4 Million in its first year, though with mixed reception from critics. Playing Bugsnax made me more interested in playing Dadliest Catch, but going through the original Octodad first helped set a good foundation for what to expect. As much as I enjoyed the end result, however, I can’t ignore some of the frustration I felt, not to mention the steep asking price for the amount of content.

After the events of Octodad, Octodad is tasked with performing mundane tasks and going to the aquarium with his family, much to his chagrin. As he goes about his day, he can’t let his family find out that he’s an octopus and must avoid the wrath of Chef Fujimoto, who already knows his secret and wants him dead.

For the most part, Dadliest Catch improves upon the original Octodad in just about every conceivable way, including a more in-depth and emotional story that explores more of Octodad’s backstory and his behavior outside the house. Octodad’s family receives more characterization, due in part to spending more time with his wife Scarlet and his children, Stacy and Tommy, individually during the aquarium visit. Humor is also improved, with some clever wordplay within the environments and more laugh-out-loud dialogue, including Octodad’s oddly specific blubbing.

It all starts with the wedding.

Though Dadliest Catch operates under a similar structure to the original, with completing checklists in each level without filling up the Suspicion Meter, it now features native controller support and feels far smoother than the original. With a controller, players can seamlessly transition between controlling Octodad’s arms and legs without an awkward dedicated button. Tasks also feel more challenging, but never impossible, and can at times feel like puzzles with more than one solution. As the player goes through each level, some of the more challenging tasks also occasionally adjust themselves so the player has less work to do if they mess up. The current lore may also work itself into the gameplay, as in a flashback level where we learn how Octodad met Scarlet. There’s also some replay value in improving level completion times and finding the three hidden ties in each level.

For an added challenge, players can also try Co-op Mode, which splits control of each of Octodad’s limbs between up to four players and even control schemes (my time in this mode split controls between a wired Xbox controller and mouse and keyboard). Completing levels this way requires more coordination, but can lead to some funny moments with the right people.

Perhaps the most obvious improvements in Dadliest Catch are the graphics and sound. Every character from the original looks better than before, with more expressive animations and a refined cartoony art style. The house has also undergone a visual overhaul, but keeps the same layout for continuity, while the new areas are visually interesting and full of personality. Improved audio mixing helps bring out the more consistently good voice acting and the new score better highlights the more comedic nature of the game.

There's even a section in the dark.

Despite all of these improvements, however, controlling Octodad can get frustrating at times. While I understand the deliberately awkward nature of playing as an octopus, I ran into an issue where I had a hard time maneuvering him at certain points, especially in one section of the aquarium that involves more precise movements and climbing abilities. Stealth segments weren’t too much of a problem, though the one at the start of the flashback level gave me a harder time. It was also surprisingly easy at times to get Octodad’s limbs trapped in objects and a handful of times he got caught in the environment. At least once, I had to reset the world through a checkpoint to fix the issue.

If there’s one major issue, however, it’s that Dadliest Catch is too short. At a regular $15 price point, you can beat the entire game in only a couple hours without any replays. The game tries to alleviate this with the inclusion of Shorts, two one-off levels that feature Octodad dating Scarlet as well as Stacy and Tommy imagining a scenario where their father is a hospital nurse. While I liked these, they only highlighted the control issues more than in the regular game and had me wondering what other scenarios Young Horses could have put Octodad through, if only for added value.

Octodad as a nurse is already pretty funny.

Octodad: Dadliest Catch is certainly a fun game and one that I would highly recommend. Considering the length and occasional frustration, however, I would advise waiting for a sale before diving in.

No comments:

Post a Comment