Review: Octodad: Dadliest Catch (PS4)

octodad-mc-2014-review-banner

Title: Octodad: Dadliest Catch
Format: PlayStation Network Download (2.6 GB)
Release Date: April 22, 2014 (US), April 23, 2014 (EU)
Publisher: Young Horses
Developer: Young Horses
Original MSRP: $14.99 (US), €13.99 (EU), £11.99 (UK)
ESRB Rating: E
Extras: PlayStation Move Compatible
Octodad: Dadliest Catch is also available on PC, Mac, and Linux.
The PlayStation 4 version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy.

Golden Minecart Award Winner 2014:
– Most Unique Experience (PS4)

Audio Review:
The audio review for this game is available on Episode 368 of the podcast.

Gameplay:
Octodad: Dadliest Catch is a unique game in many ways. The first time that I played it, my initial thoughts were that the game was being made to troll the player, but no matter how complicated the controls were I couldn’t take the smile off my face.

Throughout the game you’ll be charged to complete a series of tasks and challenges all while attempting to blend in with the humans enough to not be noticed for what you actually are. The first couple of levels are designed to help you get familiar with the complex controls, but they’re also set up to get the story rolling.

The story is at the same time silly, whimsical, funny, and even sweet and it’s really well written. When I had first played an early version of the game, I didn’t realize that there actually would be a story at all, so when I got my hands on this final version I was pleased to find out that the story works very well and does a great job of pulling your mind away from the fact that the gameplay is made to be a challenge.

20140422095925

The controls are purposefully complex, and even though you’ll be cursing sections of the game, the satisfaction is that much better when you complete a particularly difficult challenge with the comical story elements acting as a palette cleanser to help erase your anger.

Using the DualShock 4, each analog Stick controls your arms, one controlling arm height, the other controlling depth. R1 and/or Cross are used to grab, and walking is accomplished by aiming in a direction with the Left Stick, then using R2 and L2 to control each “leg”. So, think of the dual-stick controls from the arcade game Crazy Climber and you’ll understand how it’s done.

After some practice, the controls actually become familiar, but even then precision in some areas will force you to slow your pace. Making your way across narrow platforms and such isn’t an easy task since Octodad’s appendages don’t just go where they’re aimed, they still waiver until landing on a solid object.

Octodad doesn’t have any bones in his body, so since everything is flexible, he can make his way into places that a normal person wouldn’t fit and this definitely plays to his advantage. Many of the challenges will require him to get into seemingly impossible areas and I hate to use the overplayed term, but Octodad: Dadliest Catch is one of the best examples for the need to think outside the bun, or I mean box, (sorry).

One area later in the game was bringing me to the point of complete frustration until I took a minute to assess the area. Then I realized that I was overthinking my plans and my rage shifted focus to me, because I didn’t take the time to figure things out.

It’s brilliant really, and what I feel like the team was attempting to accomplish does actually get accomplished. There’s no game I know of that I could compare it to, and in this case that’s a good thing. They didn’t stop there either as this is only the second game on the PS4 to support PlayStation Move controls. But first you actually have to figure out how to sync the Move to your PS4 (See notes below, you need a PS4 camera as well). Once that’s done you’ll find options to play with one or two Move controllers, which makes it an entirely different game.

20140422100407

The first Octodad was controlled with a Mouse. You would move the Mouse in the direction you wanted the leg to go, then click-and-hold while you moved in the opposite direction. The Move controls seem to be born from that original concept with movement handled with the controllers and holding the trigger to “grab” the different surfaces. This option is really for the masochists out there though. The controls work and are very accurate and responsive, but working the 3D space out in your head can take a lot of concentration. I do love that they added this option though since it fits so well with the overall intention of the game.

It took me roughly four hours to get through the story on Normal Difficulty with Easy, Normal, and Hard available. But there’s plenty more if you’re a completionist and/or trophy hunter. In almost every level, there are 3 hidden neckties to find (33 in all) and it’s not easy. Also, at least a couple of the trophies are going to take some abstract thinking to accomplish, but they’re not impossible.

Visuals:
They may not exclaim “Next Gen!” but the visuals are quite pleasing, especially in the characters. There are a surprising number of polygons utilized in building the cartoon-like world and everything looks clean and colorful. Almost everything that you see on the screen can be manipulated in some way and the physics are pretty dead-on throughout. You’ll be required to throw some objects pretty accurately and with Octodad’s boneless appendages that’s easier said than done. But the physics won’t be the reason that you’ll fail, it’ll be your shaky hands or lack of concentration.

20140422101033

I love the visual style in Dadliest Catch, especially the animation in the main character. For not being able to speak past a few grunts and blurbs, the facial and character animations communicate to the other characters and to the player perfectly. Character design again is great, especially the Chef and the Marine Biologists at the Aquarium. I also love when I was forced to wear a disguise to get through certain points in the game, bringing the visual absurdity even further than I’d ever expected.

Audio:
Right out of the gate, the voice work is excellent throughout. No one sounds out of place and coupled with some very funny writing, the voices really cement everything together nicely. Even the ancillary characters are worth stopping to interact with (there’s even a trophy tied to that in one area). Also wonderful, the soundtrack. The music fits the action (or lack thereof) and is very well orchestrated. Sound effects are well-done with a cartoon-centric feel to them, and fit the game perfectly.

Multiplayer:
In one of the most unique implementations of Co-op multiplayer, the team at Young Horses prove that they’re either crazy or genius. I was able to try this on an earlier version of the game, and it’s simply brilliant for a truly awesome on the couch experience.

Up to four people can participate in controlling our flexible protagonist, with each player controlling a single appendage when all 4 are participating. It taxes the limits of patience and group communication and when coupled with some adult beverages, the laughs won’t stop.

Other than that, there are no online features like leaderboards available. If you want to compare completion times, you’ll need to shoot screens with the Share function and post them to social media or via email.

20140422095916

Conclusion:
This game is not for everybody, it really isn’t, so make sure you watch some videos or otherwise educate yourself before picking this up. My stance on indie games or “original/unique” titles is pretty different from many in that I don’t agree with blindly supporting them, even if they’re bad.

In this case though, that’s not a problem, because the game is pretty fantastic and infinitely charming. Those looking for the typical video game may not appreciate what the team at Young Horses was trying accomplish. But if you’re able to approach a game with an open and abstract mind, have a love for interesting puzzles and challenges, and enjoy a game made to test your patience, you’ll be hard-pressed to find one that does it as well as this one.

Score:
9.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Avermedia Extremecap U3

Addendum: Syncing your Move Controller to the PS4
It seems that to sync a Move controller to your PS4, you’ll need to turn your system on and have a DualShock 4 on as well. Attach a USB Cable to the Move controller and plug it into the PS4. Next, hit the PS Button on the Move Controller.

Now here’s the tricky part, hold the PS Button on the DualShock 4 for a few seconds, and the Move Controller will sync.

Written by Glenn Percival

Glenn Percival

Just a guy that loves games, movies, Golf, Football, and Baseball.

Podcast Co-Host, Editor-in-Chief, Video Producer, and whipping-boy

Twitter Digg Delicious Stumbleupon Technorati Facebook