Octodad: Dadliest Catch hit PS4 yesterday, and it’s exactly the same funny, weird, touching game that hit steam four months ago. Now that the game’s finally on Playstation, I’d like to compare it to Sony’s own awkward dad simulator, Heavy Rain. Because that’s super topical these days. Which of the two is better, and why is it Octodad? Read on to find out.
This is really a no-brainer. Whether you put more stock in biology or god, Octodad’s coupling with a human woman is a crime against it. He spends his whole life trying to hide a massive secret from his family, which ends up endangering their lives. He clearly loves them, but he doesn’t trust them as much as he should. His wife has to clean up after him wherever he goes, and even when he’s not drawing the ire of a crazed sushi chef, his clumsiness injures those around him.
But at least he’s not Ethan Mars. I mean, jeeze. Before he blew his vocal chords shouting “JASON” over and over again (and also saw his son die, boo hoo) he had no personality to speak of, and after he was nothing but a sullen asshat. He’s barely there for the son he has left, and takes out his grief on his wife. While Shaun is busy drowning in a ditch, Ethan somehow finds time to sex up a neurotic reporter. And let’s be real here; Octodad could have found his kid in the mall using nothing but balloons and saved everyone a heap of trouble –not to mention some very irritating shouting.
So Ethan Mars has kids. They are boys. They’re the type of boys who like treehouses and dinosaurs, if that means anything to you. One of them is pretty dumb around cars, and the other one is pretty dumb around strangers. That’s more or less all I can tell you. Ethan’s kids are plot devices, not characters. I needed google to remember which one was Jason and which one was Shaun. But he really loves the little ciphers, so darnit, you should too. That’s how pathos works, right?
Octodad’s Stacey and Tommy are two of the cutest little rascals I’ve ever seen in a game. They both have vibrant imaginations and are bursting with energy, but they express it in different ways. Stacey’s the type of girl who makes magic potions out of drinks and ketchup. Tommy plans ahead, feeding ants so they’ll be friendly when they inevitably mutate into giants. Tommy drags his dad through a grueling obstacle course of a playground, while Stacey needs him to guide her out of a dark, scary deep sea exhibit. Their personalities might be a little on the cartoony side, but that works in a cartoony game, and at least they have personalities.
Scarlett is an absolutely fantastic character. She’s a loving wife and dotes on her kids as you’d expect, but she’s also delightfully devious. She conspires with the kids to trick Octodad into going to the aquarium, and she meets Octodad while sneaking aboard a fishing vessel. Her journalistic exploits are quite impressive, and she seems to be the primary breadwinner for the household. As a bit of a conspiracy nut, she makes a great partner for a cephalopod in disguise. You can tell they really love each other, in their own weird ways.
If Ethan’s kids are ciphers, his ex is a total nonentity. I literally forgot she existed until it came time to write this thing. The Heavy Rain wiki tells me her name is Grace, which is probably descriptive in a way that passes for subtle at Quantic Dream. When we’re waiting to see Ethan’s annoyingly perfect family life torn away from him, she sure is graceful, and loving or whatever. I think. When she shows up later on though, all of that character is tossed out the window and suddenly she’s a stereotypical bitch ex-wife. Not that you can blame her when it’s Ethan Mars she’s talking to.
Another no-brainer. The story of an octopus inexpertly trying to pass himself off as human makes way more sense than Heavy Rain. Sure, there are some plot-holes, like the existence of the kids, but in Octodad those are jokes rather than bad writing. Octodad could become the president of Uganda and it would still fit together better than the goddamn clock shop scene. Speaking of…
The antagonists in both games work as foils to the heroes. Both Octodad and the Sushi chef are worried about being accepted, but whereas Octodad shies away from the chance of being discovered, the Chef actively pursues the proof that he’s not crazy (in the process making himself look crazier). They’re two sides of the same incredibly weird coin. Meanwhile, Ethan Mars is a terrible father, and the Origami Killer is a son who hates his own terrible father. That’s about as far as David Cage got in writing either character, but at least what he does have matches up. Good for him.
Ethan Mars drives recklessly, risks life and limb, and ultimately can choose to kill a mostly innocent man in order to save his son-shaped object. Heavy Rain makes a big deal out of asking how far you would go for your family. But Octodad’s no saint either. He knows that sometimes, in order to give your kids the life they deserve, you have to steal sugary cereal out of someone else’s shopping cart. For the sake of his wife, he’ll go so far as to cheat at children’s arcade games. He’s a real man’s octopus.
A big deal was made of how many emotions had been crammed into Heavy Rain thanks to then-next-gen graphical technology. You’d think that the Emotion Engine could handle this sort of thing better than the Cell Processor, but science tells us emotions are just electrochemical reactions inside cells, so clearly this makes for a more accurate simulation. The range of emotion becomes clear when you compare this screenshot of Ethan considering murder:
To this one of him being sad in front of a house:
Truly, the subtle differences in his dead-eyed unenthusiasm are staggering. Even a generation later, Octodad just can’t match it. Just look at these two screens, cropped to remove the subtitles:
Totally indecipherable. You just can’t tell what he’s feeling. Point to Heavy Rain.
By virtue of making it slightly less difficult to open a refrigerator door, Octodad wins.
With an unprecedented score of seven to one, Octodad takes this wholly unbiased contest in a landslide. When it comes to portraying the ups and downs of family life in an emotionally resonant way, no game on Sony consoles is more accurate or realistic than the one about a cartoon octopus wearing a suit.