bestof2014-20

Every day between now and Christmas morning, we’ll share the twenty-five stories that engaged, enchanted, amused and amazed us the most in 2014. If you missed them, now’s your chance to catch up; if you’re looking for a gift for the wonk in your life, then these are our most enthusiastic recommendations!

Today, Octodad – Dadliest Catch.

There’s a huge power in fully understanding what it is that you’re attempting to do. So many stories reach for something great, only to become unstuck from their form or medium; this is particularly true in gaming, the critics of which had to invent the term ludonarrative dissonance to account for the experiential gap between what the player is doing, and what they’re told is happening.

The first indication that the team behind Octodad completely understand their own story can be found in the silly subversion of their their tagline: “Loving Father. Caring Husband. Secret Octopus.” This is the story of an octopus pretending to be a man — pretending so well, in fact, that he has become the patriarch of a perfect slice of ’50s-style Americana. He doesn’t talk, he just burbles; he doesn’t look human, he just looks like an octopus in a three-piece suit; he doesn’t move like a normal person — and this is the key gameplay mechanic — because he moves like a weird, flailing, undersea abomination.

The game is basically a manic physics simulation, where you struggle to control Octodad with style and finesse, and inevitably end up waving a coffee pot around over your head while simultaneously sweeping everything off the kitchen table with an errant limb (tentacle?). What makes it work is the tone of the story — what begins as an absurd satire of suburban living actually manages to land some meaningful emotional beats without contradicting the lunacy of its central mechanic. By understanding its own world, premise and mechanic with perfect precision, it manages to not only have its cake and eat it, but also charm some of your cake right out of your hands, and eat that too.

Octodad is available on Windows, Mac and Linux system, as well as Playstation, and it’s half-price on Steam right now.

Get it now: Octodad – Dadliest Catch.