This week: Octodad, a game by the constantly-evolving DePaul Game Experience, associated with the university of the same name. Why this week Octodad, etc, etc, you ask? Because screw you, it’s Octodad, that’s why.
More seriously, though, Octodad has been in my list of ‘games I should probably play (for this column) at some point’ since as long as I can remember. I don’t actually know why I haven’t played it earlier; for some reason, my mind had been convinced that it would be hard to obtain, or hard to get running, or something along those lines. But on being reminded of the Steam-Greenlighted sequel currently in development, I decided to give it another shot. And what do you know? It’s available for free in convenient one-file download format.
(Spoiler levels: Narrative, somewhat high. Mechanical, full.)
Octodad’s opening menu is an ugly Ikea-esque cupboard, flanking a set of textures that look like they give the Build engine a run for its money.
I’m not going to start yet, I’m not going to quit, and I don’t care about the credits… so how’bout some Options? Keeping with the Ikea theme, the Options menu is this sweet-ass movie poster:
Beyond that, that’s… that’s pretty much it. Let’s dive into the game, then!
Cutscene. An all-American suburban neighbourhood. As soap opera music plays, the animated camera zooms in on one specific house.
A bed. One person is sleeping in it… one person with a rather large, bald, spotted, yellow head.
Someone else walks into view: a red-haired woman of no other particular physical description. She shakes the person in the bed. “Wake up, dear!” goes the voice-acting, “Today is a HUGE day! Up! Up!”
The figure in the bed makes some disturbing noises, turns around, gets up, and…
Have I actually ever mentioned why I had Octodad on my to-play list for so long? It’s because I read the game’s back-of-the-box summary, which goes a little like this:
You, the player, control a husband, father and all-American working man. You have to navigate a busy day of taking care of your children, doing chores, and spending time with your wife, all without any of them finding out your deepest, darkest secret:
That you’re actually an octopus.
My wife gasps. My wife’s voice actor gasps too. “GASP!”, they both go. Have I carelessly ruined my secret before even starting?
No, it’s just that I’ve slept past noon. It’s… wow, 3:49! Holy smokes, I’m burning daylight! Best get to it: I’ve a lot of totally-human-not-octopus-at-all dad-things to do.
Before the cutscene relinquishes control to me, though, I get hit with this control screen. I grump at it for a few seconds, but then realize that I probably need this.
Okay, let’s see… A and D move the camera… and the mouse controls my feet… unless it controls my hands… what?
Luckily, there’s an actual step-by-step tutorial hidden behind this jumble of controls. This takes place inside the actual game, which looks like this:
Okay, how does this work? Step 1: the A and D buttons rotate the camera around my protagonist, who is totally human and definitely not an octopus. I mean, look at how totally human this guy is:
Now then. How do I move, if not with the WASD keys? The answer is both easier and much more complex than I’d have thought: it’s the mouse. Specifically, the mouse buttons. Double specifically, the left and right mouse buttons correspond to my left and right legs. Which, I feel the need to stress again, are not comprised of three octopus tentacles apiece, braided together to provide some measure of support to my otherwise boneless body.
Hold the left mouse button to raise the left leg. Move the mouse, button still held, to move the held-aloft leg around. Release the button to plop the leg down. Hold the right mouse button, etc, etc, for the right leg. Alternate to get anywhere. Couldn’t be easier, right?
This… whoa, hey… this takes… *crash*… this takes some getting used to. It’s simple in theory, but in practice, Octodad kind of flails around all over the place. While I control one leg at the time, and the other leg tends to resolutely stay rooted where it is, the rest of Octodad’s body is fair game for whatever mockery of gravity and physics controls this universe. Truthfully, he tends to stay somewhat upright most of the time.
I… let’s call it walking. I walk over to my alarm clock, which leads in the next tutorial segment: arms. Or rather, arm. By pressing the Space Bar, I can switch my ‘control mode’ from ‘controlling Octodad’s legs’ to ‘controlling one of Octodad’s flailing non-tentacle arms’. Moving the mouse in this mode moves the
tentacle arm around on a horizontal plane; holding down the right mouse button and moving the mouse controls it on a vertical plane. When the arm gets close enough to a grab-able object, it’s highlighted in a green glow; pressing the left mouse button then attaches the arm to the object, using its totally human arm-suckers.
And that’s basically it, I think. Given these controls, it’s no wonder Octodad hasn’t been found out yet: his movement are so graceful and careless that even David Attenborough wouldn’t have batted an eyelid.
Okay, that might be exaggerating a tad. In reality, there is something called a ‘Suspicion Meter’ in the top left corner. Doing various ill-defined ‘suspicious’ things will slowly alert your family members: fill the bar (with octopus ink) completely, and the jig is up! The tutorial has me pick up a makeup container as an example of suspicious behaviour, reasoning that ‘you’re a dad, you don’t wear makeup!’.
And with that, the tutorial is finished. I cut to another scene, where Octodad scribes in his journal. As flailing as this guy is to control in the game, he has excellent penmanship.
Before I can get to my MYSTERIOUS WORK, though, Scarlet interferes! She cheerfully lets me know that she’s going grocery shopping for our dinner tonight, and that I’m to do my chores and take care of the kids. Confound you, woman!
Octodad’s journal doubles as an in-game menu, containing an objectives list, a map and a story recap. I’ve obviously only seen one or two of these little story vignettes so far, but they seem pretty cool.
My prime objective is this: to find my fancy suit, an octopus doll and a banana, so that I can create a decoy to distract my wife so I can finish… whatever I’m setting out to finish. From the living room, which I’m in right now, I can access the three other rooms these items can be found in: the kitchen, the living room and my kids’ bedroom. I opt to retrieve my suit from the living room first; surely, for a man-around-house of my caliber, this will be a task so easy as to not even register.
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