Still, Sony featured Dadliest Catch during its E3 press conference, alongside a selection of indie games coming to PlayStation 4. It was a surprise for fans of the first Octodad, a free PC game that Young Horses launched in 2010 to a strange brand of public acclaim (and confusion).
As I played through the Dadliest Catch demo on the PS4 at E3, one thing became apparent: Just because Octodad had pressed his suit for major-console gaming, he was still an ambulatory-impaired octopus – and that will always be hilarious.
Ocotodad: Dadliest Catch features our boneless hero as he prepares for his wedding. He must find certain objects and complete tasks to make himself presentable: find keys for doors, collect neck ties, and put on his bowtie and hat. (Of course Octodad wears a bowtie and top hat to his wedding. Anything else would be ridiculous.). When he finally lurches to the chapel doors, his wife's guests – his wife and her acquaintances are all human, it should be noted – glare globs of goo at him. Octodad must avoid the goo balls, retrieve the ring and finally make his happily-ever-after a reality.
There are two layers of gameplay in Dadliest Catch: Completing the tasks set forth on the screen, and simply walking around and destroying the environment in a haphazard, maniacal fashion. It's difficult to frown while playing Dadliest Catch, especially as Octodad makes his way to the dance floor, crushing the cake, flipping over tables and knocking down all of the presents.
On PS4, players control Octodad's movements by switching between his arms and his legs with the left bumper, and then holding the appropriate trigger and scooting his appendages in the desired direction with the analog sticks. Even after mastering the controls, Octodad moves with the grace of an inflatable tube man, knocking down vases – there are a lot of vases in this church – and generally smacking things the player doesn't intend to smack. It's outrageous, and it's endlessly funny.
I asked developer Philip Tibitoski if, after three years of this insanity, Octodad still made him laugh. He said, yes, but it's usually when the team finds some unexpected consequence of all that flailing in the game.
Dadliest Catch is part of Sony's massive E3 exhibit, running on four separate PS4s alongside dozens of next-gen and Vita games. A group of people waiting to play and watching the carnage on-screen constantly bubbles around the Octodad kiosks.
Sony first approached Young Horses about Octodad after its IGF nomination in 2011, and the two stayed in contact over the years, Sony checking in about Dadliest Catch and talking about potential partnerships. Then, a few months before E3, Sony asked Young Horses if it wanted to be a part of the PS4 E3 conference. The team said yes.
Sony's persistence paid off for both parties, and now Tibitoski is thinking about Move integration (Seriously, can you imagine?) and has Dadliest Catch slated for a launch in spring 2014 on PS4, following a PC launch in January. It'll probably be $15, which is a mighty step up from the original Octodad, which is still free. That game paid off in publicity, Tibitoski said, but it's not paying any actual bills.
Tibitoski has a full-time job, with Octodad development still as a "nights and weekends" gig. Of the eight employees at Young Horses, two are full-time (the designer and the artist), and everyone else works on the game in their spare time. No one is getting a salary for development, at least not yet. The dream is to work on games with Young Horses full-time, Tibitoski said.
If dreams can come true for clumsy yellow octopi, Tibitoski might have a shot, too.