After a group of students from DePaul University got together and built a little demo called Octodad for the IGF Student Competition and turned a lot of heads, they had a meeting. It was in that meeting that several of the team decided to get together and turn Octodad into a real, full-fledged game.
That team became Young Horses. In July of 2011, they turned to Kickstarter in order to earn $20,000 to make Octodad 2. They met that amount and then exceeded it by $4,000.
We first met the guys at Young Horses back at PAX East in 2013. Octodad 2 became Octodad: Dadliest Catch. They'd been developing their game, a lot of them on a part-time basis, for roughly two years at the time, and they were literally days away from being approached by Sony in order to develop it for the PlayStation 4.
Fast-forward to today, the day Octodad: Dadliest Catch is on Steam, the Humble widget on the official site and GOG with a long term price of $14.99. It features a launch sale that brings the game down to $11.99 until February 6th, so keep that in mind if you're interested in spilling all over the living room in front of your kids as an Octopus.
Before you ask, the PlayStation 4 version is targeted for March of this year.
Guess what; you need this game in your life.
Who is this "Octodad" and Why Does he Have Children?
Octodad: Dadliest Catch is a game where players fill the role of an octopus. This octopus has a human wife and human children, and they don't know his true identity.
Without, well, bones, players must successfully control this child rearing cephalopod as he goes about his daily life making coffee, grilling burgers, buying soda and visiting the aquarium. As you play, you'll try and remain as inconspicuous as possible. Suspicions are raised if folks notice you acting like an idiot, so keep cool under pressure as you flail about the fruit section of your local grocery store.
Look, this whole thing is ridiculous. The Young Horses team have suggested several times that they're not trying to broadcast any crazy sincere messages here, though you shouldn't let that stop you from imprinting your own perceptions on this story. It can get dark if you want it to. This octopus loves his human family so much, imagine how it hurts him to keep this secret from them. Silly, right?
Just let go, my friends. Octodad: Dadliest Catch, first and foremost, is about having fun. There's an inherent challenge in the game's control scheme, which we'll get to in a second, but the breadth of the joy in this experience rests solely on its brilliant ability to just be happy.
That translates to the look and sound of the game, as well. It's cartoony, sure, but there's a lot of physics happening to keep this octopus' body floppy in all the right ways. Backing those looks up are a strong set of voice acting and great soundtrack that I found myself whistling every time I played.
There's Fun in Control
You can control Octodad in one of two ways. You'll either use the mouse and keyboard or a gamepad. You have a whole slew of choices when it comes to input for this game. Octodad: Dadliest Catch supports the DualShock 4, the Xbox 360 PC controller, DirectInput, and xInput controllers. You can change the button configuration to whatever you want, too.
The whole trick here is that you'll operate each limb independently. Don't worry, you'll only need to worry about three of them, not eight.
With the keyboard and mouse, you'll use the left and right mouse buttons to lift each leg, and you'll thrust the mouse forward, backward, side-to-side in order to move. When you need to pick up an object, press the spacebar to switch to arm control and right click to switch between horizontal and vertical movement. Click on something to grab it.
With the gamepad, things got much easier (for me, at least). The legs were on the right and left trigger, and movement for them was locked to the left stick when a trigger is pressed. When no trigger is pressed, the up-and-down for the arms is on the left stick while horizontal play is on the right. The grabbing function here is on the A button, by default.
It seems really difficult to understand by way of explanation. It's not. Spend two minutes playing the game, and just about anyone can handle it. I know it's only anecdotal, but I saw kids playing this game with ease at PAX East last year.
Things get nuts when you try the cooperative mode. That's right, local cooperative play for two to four players. Each player is deemed a limb with up to four limbs working at once. The limbs are color-coded, and you'll either have one or two in your care, depending on how many folks you play with.
Forget speed runs when enjoying the game this way, just get ready to laugh and yell.
The only technical complaint I had with Octodad: Dadliest Catch came from the odd way I got stuck in random objects. I'm not talking about accidently wrapping myself up in electrical cords in a maintenance closet, because that was hilarious. I'm talking about getting stuck as one of my arms passed through a door and wouldn't come out.
It didn't happen often, perhaps only a handful of times during my first playthrough. It just always seemed to come when I was struggling with some objective. The build I played for review is not the most up-to-date version, so perhaps some of this has been ironed out.
Ties to Find, Developer Speeds to Beat
Don't buy Octodad: Dadliest Catch with the intention of playing it once and never touching it again. This is a game that's quite short, it only took me two hours to reach the end-credits. However, I've since dumped at least eight into replaying levels, trying to beat the developer's speed run times and hunting for unlockables and Easter Eggs.
Octodad is meant to be explored. Each level can literally be completed in minutes, and that means you can hop back into any section of the game in order to find one of the three wearable ties littered about the environment or to unlock an odd achievement.
Speaking of achievements… I normally hate them. When they include things like "Find 10 Hats," "Beat Level 6" and "Open Your Inventory," I feel like achievements are a complete and utter waste of time. Octodad does have a few throwaways, but it's also rife with achievements that task you with playing the game differently.
You'll be asked to sneak through a space without a disguise to unlock one achievement, flawlessly execute a dance routine for another and find your best man during your wedding for a third. When achievements like these are present, I actually sit down and try to complete them all.
Yes, this game is short. If you one-and-done it, you'll walk away having spent $15 for roughly two hours of play. For some, that might be asking a lot. My advice? Don't just play it once. It's not meant to be played once; no, Octodad is meant to be explored, perfected and understood. The nods to other indie games alone are worth your time.
Especially when you have to murder Super Meat Boy for a sweet steak tie.
But Wait, There's More
So, you've beaten the game's campaign, completed the achievements, operated both arms and legs in coop, found all the ties, beaten the developer speed runs and hunted out all the Easter Eggs? Good for you.
Now there's the Workshop mode.
So far, the only person building mods for Octodad: Dadliest Catch is Kevin Geisler, one of the developers behind game. However, if you buy the game on Steam, you'll have access to the Octodad Editor. Build levels and create objectives 'til your heart's content.
The crazy part? This is the same editor the Young Horses team used to build the game. It's buggy, as the team focused on developing the actual product rather than the editor itself, but it's exactly what they used to make Octodad, well, Octodad.
If the community gets behind this product and learns to use the editing tool in interesting ways, we're looking at a nearly limitless amount of free Octodad content for years to come.
Steam makes installing mods dead easy, so I'm personally hoping this catches on in a big way.
It's a great joke of a game where the punchline can be felt by both players and spectators, and that's why I think Octodad is so special.
For the sake of complete transparency, the moment I completed Octodad: Dadliest Catch's campaign, I felt underwhelmed. I sent a note to my editor here at TechnoBuffalo and offered that the game only took me two hours to clear. We both fired back and forth about that fact for a few minutes before moving on with the day.
It's not that I was upset that it was "too short," I honestly hate that notion. I was upset that it was over so quickly. It ended, and I wanted more.
I sat down to work the next morning and fired my game back up. Those two hours churned into three, four, five and six. I replayed levels looking hidden objects, catching nods and references and trying to earn achievements and beat developer completion times. I hopped into the Workshop and downloaded a few of the mods. I even briefly tooled around with the editor in an effort to turn Octodad into an even clumsier giant.
I started thinking about Octodad away from work, something I actively try not to do. It's been invading conversations with my wife and close friends, and it's sort of establishing itself as something I turn to for a light-hearted laugh and a way to unwind.
Octodad could very well spawn its own cult-following. It has all the hallmarks of a wonderful game that plays well at parties (especially the silly cooperative mode) and that Let's Players should dump hours and hours into. It's a great joke of a game where the punchline can be felt by both players and spectators, and that's why I think Octodad is so special.
Yes, there's a storyline here that's certainly clever. And, sure, you'll be able to spend $15 and get a nice little package with a clear and concise line of play. But, Octodad, for me, has been rewarding because of the small culture it creates. It's fun. I can't wait for everyone else to have it, because then it'll be fun for them.
This game is great.
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