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GAME REVIEW: Octodad

Octodad is living the American dream. He is a businessman with a wife and two lovely children living in a nice suburban home with a nice big green lawn. He’s just an ordinary guy. Except for the minor detail that he is actually an octopus living a lie and fooling everyone into thinking he’s human. And he’s done a good job so far, apparently. Not even his wife and kids suspect. There’s only person who sees through the not-so-clever disguise–Fujimoto, a local sushi chef. And he’s out to expose Octodad for the fraud that he really is.

Octodad is a 3rd person…um…slapstick comedy platformer? Fatherhood impostor simulator? It’s one-of-a-kind, hard to classify. It was published through DePaul University as a video game development project, and spawned the company Young Horses.  It was developed for the 2011 Independent Games Festival.

Today isn’t just any day. It’s Octodad’s and Mrs. Octodad’s anniversary, but they just have to take care of a few errands before their anniversary dinner. And then there’s the matter of putting together an Octodad-decoy so that he can sneak down to the basement and finish his secret project. These are just ordinary chores that any human father would be able to do with ease, so of course Octodad is expected to do them too.

The control scheme is awkward, but this is probably the only game where that’s entirely the point. Octodad is trying to live his life entirely out of his element and trying to pretend that he fits in where he doesn’t. When you’re in walking mode, holding the right mouse button and moving the mouse moves one “leg” and holding the left mouse button and moving the mouse moves the other “leg”. Spacebar to switch to “arm” mode–moving the mouse moves the “arm” on the horizontal plane, holding the right mouse button while moving the mouse moves the “arm” on the vertical plane with left click to grab or release. There tends to be a lot of knocking things over by accident and falling off of things as you’re trying to walk.

To add a level of challenge to the game besides just the basic maneuvering, there is a “Suspicion” meter that fills up when you do things you shouldn’t be, like knocking over furniture, or taking too long to perform a simple task. If the suspicion meter fills up all the way then the game ends with an image of a discount sushi platter and you have to replay the task you were working on.

There are a lot of things to like about the game. The absurdity of the octopus in the suit going unnoticed by everyone around him is silly and fun. The awkward controls make for some slapstick kind of comedy–probably the only slapstick game I’ve every played. But beyond that, I really feel for the guy. I think everyone feels from time to time like they’re impostors in their own life, trying to play the role they’ve been given but never quite sure they’re succeeding at it. Beneath all the silliness is a pretty much universally relatable concept.

 

Visuals
Very simple but cute look, more than adequate for the story. The cut scenes are cartoons drawn in a kind of unsteady hand, but they’re cute. I had been spoiled a bit by playing the sequel first (which has noticeably improved graphics, more detailed backgrounds). Although the actual body movement is plenty fluid the expressions and textures are kind of rigid in comparison. (For some reason I couldn’t get screen captures to work with this game hence my lack of screenshots)

Audio
Cute.

Challenge
Somewhat uneven challenge level. Most of the tasks weren’t too difficult, but a few took me a few tries. The last segment of the game ramped up sharply in difficulty.

Story
Silly, fun story. But you’ve got to expect that from a game where an octopus is successfully pretending to be human, even to his wife.

Session Time
A bit uneven. Again, I spoiled myself by playing the sequel first, where the game auto-saves after every task. In this one you have to complete all the tasks in a room before the saving will actually save your progress. But still relatively small session time, not too hard to put down.

Playability
The controls are tricky , but that’s the point. The tasks in the game are meant to be things that would be trivial for a man who isn’t secretly an octopus. In walking mode holding the left button and moving the mouse button moves one leg, and the right button does the other. Spacebar switches from walking mode to arm mode. In arm mode moving the mouse moves your tentacle in the horizontal plane, holding the right mouse button moves it in the vertical plane with left button grabbing/releasing objects.

Replayability
Not really. It’s fun to play anytime, but playing a second time isn’t going to provide anything the first didn’t.

Originality
Very! Such a simple, silly, weird idea. I love it.

Playtime
Played the game in about an hour.

Overall
Octodad was the result of a student development project and you can download and play the entire game for free. Do it! It’s fun! And if you like it, consider picking up the sequel: Octodad: Dadliest Catch.

About David Steffen (64 Articles)
David Steffen is a writer and editor and software engineer and a voracious consumer of podcast fiction. The first piece of fiction he's edited is now available, "Taste the Whip" by Andy Dudak on Diabolical Plots(http://www.diabolicalplots.com/dp-fiction-1-taste-the-whip-by-andy-dudak/). David is also the co-founder and administrator of the The Submission Grinder(http://thegrinder.diabolicalplots.com/), a tool for writers.
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