Kratos didn’t invent dad games in God of War (2018), but he helped solidify the genre. There are a lot of challenges Kratos deals with in his first Norse outing that most dads can’t relate to–not everybody has fought an all-powerful warrior. So there is a certain charm in the more down-to-earth dad tale of 2014’s Octodad: Dadliest Catch. The protagonist is just a normal dad doing normal dad things. He works hard and loves his wife and kids. He also happens to be an octopus.
When it first released a decade ago, Octodad: Dadliest Catch was a charming adventure of a cephalopod who loves fatherhood. Today the game still stands as a fun, if regretfully short, dad game that leverages its ingenious premise for an outstanding comedic experiences.
Like the best gags, Octodad: Dadliest Catch starts with a simple and absurd premise that is then treated with complete seriousness. The premise here is that an octopus has donned the guise of normal man and discovered the joys of family life. But none of his loved ones actually know is an octopus. In order to protect his way of life Octodad—yes, that is the protagonist’s name—must complete all the tedious tasks of everyday life without tipping off those around him to his secret.
Which proves to be an exceptionally difficult task, considering how hard it is to do almost anything when your arms and legs are tentacles. Taking control of Octodad feels like the game itself is fighting the player, as controlling tentacles has a lack of precision. Controlling either the arm tentacles or leg tentacles–you only get to control one pair at a time– the player must aid Octodad in getting through tasks like making coffee or going grocery shopping. As tentacles fling uncontrollably around and lead to endless chaos Octodad shows itself to be a brilliant piece of slapstick comedy.
Before long, Octodad’s tentacles will seem like a tornado due to how they wreak havoc, leaving an entire grocery store’s produce aisle scattered to every corner. But you can’t just cause a ruckus without consequence. Octodad still has a secret to keep and the more mayhem you cause, the more people catch on that something is up, resulting in the need to restart a level.
The other people in the game—with the exception of a chef attempting to reveal Octodad’s secret—never treat Octodad as anything other than a normal human man. It capitalizes on the classic comedy tactic of playing it straight. Everything going on in Octodad is absurd, but the game treats it all as nothing out of the ordinary, making every time the player missteps even funnier. Comedy has never been an easy thing to accomplish in video games, but those that do it well often rely on clever writing rather than gameplay itself. Octodad: Dadliest Catch’s successful use of its gameplay to make slapstick scenarios make it one of the best comedic games, and that’s only become more evident in the decade since its release.