Octodad: Dadliest Catch
PC (now), PlayStation 4 (March)
3.5 stars out of 4
With “Octodad: Dadliest Catch,” local indie game outfit Young Horses have concocted the world’s most literal fish-out-of-water comedy. It features the domestic adventures of a suburban father who, at first glance, seems straight out of an old-fashioned sitcom—save for one ocean-sized twist. He’s actually an eight-legged mollusk masquerading as a regular human being with a wife and children.
Because he’s a floppy, gelatinous creature from under the sea, the act of performing the most banal of household chores—putting on a tie or mowing the lawn—end up feeling like Herculean tasks. Human hands and arms, as it turns out, make it fairly easy to brew a pot of coffee. Not so when you’ve got uncoordinated tentacles. Navigating the urban environment in this condition is unfailingly hilarious to watch, but can be frustrating to control.
There’s a struggle, especially at first, to make the protagonist perform basic movements, and sometimes you feel like you’re trying to make an infant walk for the first time. But eventually you’re forced to get a grip over your awkwardness because making too much of a scene in public places—if you follow the game’s goofy logic—will break the camouflage and Octodad could end up on someone’s sushi plate.
What can’t be concealed is the human heart beating underneath all the sight gags and zany humor of “Dadliest Catch.” The title character gurgles in frustration when his wife and kids beg him to visit an aquarium (vaguely based on Shedd), and there’s the foreboding sense that as much as Octodad tries to fit in and please his family it’s never quite enough. This sense of grounded emotion combined with vividly cartoonish visuals can at times lend a Pixar vibe to “Dadliest Catch.”
That’s high praise, especially since this is Young Horses’ first commercial project. But in the three years since this small team of North Siders made the original “Octodad” as a student project at DePaul, they’ve finely tuned the series from interesting experiment to catch of the gaming sea.