A wacky yet heartwarming adventure ported with care by Sickhead Games that remains a memorable experience thanks to a great sense of humour – despite its brief length.
World-building & Story
Octodad takes place in an exaggerated version of the real world, where our titular character lives with his wife and children in a typical suburban setting. While this may seem like a fairly bland design choice upon first glance, it does have a reason – part of the charm of Octodad is seeing the absurd main character do every-day tasks in a normal setting, so things had to be kept more low-key.
Story-wise, the game doesn’t offer anything particularly special – it involves Octodad trying to elude being discovered as an Octopus, in particular while being relentlessly pursued by a chef trying to catch and unmask him. It gets the job done but does allow for the two most interesting elements of the game to shine, which are the humour and the characters.
So while the world itself is standard and the base story is rather formulaic, the game chooses to inject comedy whenever possible which helps bring life to the whole experience. Seeing Octodad flopping around the environments is funny enough in itself, but coming across scientists who “know a fish when they see one” or hearing Octodad’s daughter tell him that she put her butterfly hair clips in the garden so they’d return to nature really made me chuckle. All of this helps nurture Octodad’s tone as a silly, farcical adventure which is something you rarely see in videogames these days.
Undoubtedly, though, the thing I enjoyed most about the game were the other members of Octodad’s family, all of whom had distinct personalities that were a joy to observe. Of particular note for me was Octodad’s daughter Stacy, who alternated between strikingly naive and incredibly observant as the story progressed and was a really amusing character to interact with.
While the game’s brief length doesn’t allow for much in the way of character development, Octodad is filled with sweet moments which really makes the setup memorable. The characters clearly care for each other – a highlight for me was exploring the ‘Deep Sea’ level with Stacy, who upon spotting “those scientist men” her dad is afraid of, proceeds to distract them so he can slink past un-noticed. Little moments like these are littered throughout the game giving it a real heart underneath all the farce.
Presentation & Sound
Graphically, Octodad is serviceable but feels like it could’ve been better. The colour palette chosen is great – everything is bright and cheerful which does really fit with the tone of the game. Characters models go for a ‘3D cartoon’ aesthetic which again fits well with the rest of the title, but the actual models themselves could’ve done with a bit more to them – as they are, animations for some of the NPC’s are rather clunky and it feels like there’s a level of detail missing.
Similarly environments are rather blocky, with things like grass being repeated patches of green objects rather than being one continuous texture. It does help that the camera generally moves from fixed angles, so you’re always viewing the scene the developers want you to see (you are allowed some limited camera control in spite of this). But there’s a general lack of detail in the backgrounds of the areas you’ll visit, being painted with broad strokes rather than individual pieces of design.
That’s not to say there aren’t areas where the game doesn’t shine – again, the ‘Deep Sea’ level with Stacy remains a visual treat with dark lighting and all sorts of interesting creatures floating around, making it a joy to wander around. There’s also a striking 2D ‘secret’ level later on that is aesthetically gorgeous and an interesting chance of pace.
Items in the environment in general are quite chunky, which does make them easier to notice and grab as Octodad but feels low-effort and something that could’ve been improved upon (for example, a pane of glass may break into really large pieces compared to shattering into something smaller). That said, the areas you’ll explore are generally filled to the brim with things to interact with so you’ll barely notice this (although it’s worth noting that some items have been removed from the Vita port, for example treadmills in the supermarket level, which is a bit of a shame).
Sound is generally a strong point for the game – voice acting is great, with Octodad blubbering and his family all sounding appropriate (and delivering some of the more amusing lines with some great inflections). Similarly the main bad guy – a stereotypical French chef – sounds right at home in the heightened reality of the game. In addition sound effects are used extremely well – hearing a comical ‘whoosh’ as Octodad trips over a banana peel never gets old.
The soundtrack isn’t particularly filled with memorable songs, although the game’s main theme (played during the opening and closing credits) is great, as are a few scattered pieces of music throughout the game. It’s not the kind of stuff you’re going to be humming for weeks to come, but it’s all very fitting in-game.
Gameplay & Content
Gameplay in Octodad is hard to nail down – it’s a mixture of so many different elements, but at it’s core it’s a third-person adventure game. Splattered throughout these sections are short cutscenes, which help push along the narrative or give you clues for what you have to do next.
By far the main ‘gimmick’ of the game is how the main character controls – this is an Octopus posing as a human, after all. Octodad has four limbs (two arms and two legs), each of which are controlled separately. While this doesn’t sound too bad in principle, it takes quite some time to get used to how he moves – he’s an octopus lacking bones so he flops around and fails to move in a straight line.
You’ll spent most of the game trying to accomplish the menial tasks given to you while fighting against Octodad’s movement – while this sounds like it might be an episode in frustration, in reality I found myself constantly entertained trying to get the character to move how I wanted, barring some minor annoyances (such as his legs getting stuck in ladders or under tables).
The things you’re actually asked to do in the game remain incredibly varied – you’ll start off doing everyday tasks like making coffee or pouring milk, before moving on to sections like an arcade in an Aquarium where you’ll have to play certain games in order to win prizes. Octodad does contain some mandatory stealth sections – I’ve seen a lot of other reviews mark the game down on these, but I personally found them quite a refreshing change of pace which never really reached the point of frustration.
Content is where Octodad begins to show cracks – the experience is brief, clocking in at around 2-3 hours to clear the story mode. The game encourages you to return to gather collectible ties which will take a while longer to find, but there’s nothing gained from collecting all of these meaning it’s purely for completionists. The game slightly negates the lack of base content by having two additional ‘shorts’, however – extra scenarios that take place separately to the main story and I have to admit, were a blast to play.
The better of the two, ‘Dad Romance’, shows Octodad on his very first date with wife-to-be Scarlet, during which he inadvertently gets mistaken for a waiter and tries his hand at cooking, cleaning and waiting tables. The other scenario, ‘Medical Mess’, involves Octodad as a nurse, imagined by his children as they’re drawing. The main attraction of these extra scenarios is their length – it took me around an hour to complete both of them and I have to say I was constantly doing amusing things during the whole of that time.
A very brief note on performance – the game ran well for me for the most part, with only one instance of slowdown during a ‘World of Kelp’ section where the screen got overloaded with items which didn’t seem to de-spawn. As previously mentioned, some objects are removed from the environments for this Vita version (presumably to make the game run better) and it seems to have been a wise choice. The game’s only issue in this regard is loading times – getting in and out of levels can take a bit too long for a portable game, which is a real shame.
Octodad puts silly, farcical humour front-and-centre and that’s very much a good thing, as it makes the game a blast to play. Underneath that all, there’s a genuine heart to the story which was completely unexpected – making a fantastic overall package, aside from the game’s short length and technical issues.