What if a caring husband and loving father was secretly an octopus? Last November a group of DePaul University game design students answered that question with the release of their video game Octodad. The game, currently available for free on the PC and Mac, went on to become a cult classic and won a fair share of independent gaming awards.
In Octodad, players are tasked with cleaning the table, killing spiders, and various other household things a father might do. The catch is that the puppet-like controls are incredibly difficult, but appropriate given Octodad’s status as a land-bound sea creature. If tasks are not completed in time, the family might suspect that Octodad is an octopus, leading to a nasty confrontation with a sushi chef.
The combination of bizarre controls with an even more bizarre and hilarious premise left players clamoring for more. The developers then decided to form their own studio, Young Horses, and after raising enough funds through a successful Kickstarter campaign during the summer, they got to work on a sequel which we recently got a chance to check out at a public student playtesting event over at DePaul.
The first and most complete level of Octodad2 on display was the opening tutorial. In this flashback to Octodad’s wedding day, players are taught how to manipulate objects with tentacles by putting on a bow tie, pulling a lever, and searching for a ring. They then must walk down the aisle without suspiciously breaking anything, something much easier said than done.
This scenario was longer and more guided than anything seen in the original Octodad, hinting at how much more substantial this sequel will be. The game will reportedly last around four hours, compared to the first game which can be completed in under one. Although the environments aren’t completely finished, there are some nice rain and water effects. Octodad himself looks much better than he did last time, too, thanks to the improved graphics engine.
The controls, while slightly smoother, remain mostly unchanged. While in leg mode, clicking and holding the left and right mouse buttons lift up their respective legs, moving the mouse moves the leg's position, and releasing the button releases the leg. Properly coordinated mouse clicks and movements allow Octodad to inch his way forward. Clicking the mouse wheel switches to arm mode where mouse gestures control horizontal movement, right mouse clicks control vertical movement, and left mouse clicks cause Octodad to grab things. In practice, the controls make slightly more sense than they do on paper, but just barely, which is part of the point.
The next two levels showed off how much more varied Octodad 2 seemed to be. One mission had players picking up blocks of different shapes to plug up a leak while the other was a ring toss-style mini-game that showed off the new throwing mechanic. While throwing in Octodad 2 is as awkward and funny looking as one would expect, it is also surprisingly precise. That's the beauty of Octodad. Once one gets a hang of the controls they are still funny, but also oddly satisfying.
The final level, while not as finished as the other three, was by far the most exciting. In what is essentially a stealth sequence, Octodad must travel across a room while staying hidden from the sushi chefs patrolling the area. He must then escape by walking across a balance beam suspended above a whole gang of chefs. This kind of danger is a far cry from the first game, where the final challenge was climbing a ladder.
What we played of Octodad 2 was already more substantial than all of the first Octodad even in its current, unfinished state. However, given that Young Horses plans on charging for this, that should be expected. There’s no release date yet but Octodad 2 will be available for PC, Mac, and also possibly for the Xbox 360 with Kinect support, iPhones and iPads.