A dolphin arrives to carry Dadish across a water-themed level:
“Hey. You can call me Dolphin Dolphin,” says the dolphin.
“You say it twice? Sounds like an echo,” says Dadish.
“No, that’s my brother.”
This exchange managed to make us snort lemonade out of our nose, which – we may add – is extremely painful. In a way, we looked like a dolphin clearing its blowhole.
This is the thing about Dadish 3, the third title in Thomas K. Young’s vegetable trilogy: it’s a simple platformer that is absolutely laden with love, detail and chortles. For a series that isn’t even a year old yet (the first Dadish and Dadish 2 were released in November 2021), the Dadish games feel like they have been created painstakingly. There’s no cash-grab in the rapid release of these games.
Dadish 3 is, in our view, the best of the bunch. There may be no change in the overall formula, but everything has been refined to a sparkling polish. You’re still playing as Dadish, as your litter of Radishlets goes wandering, leaving you to find them across forty levels, spread out over four zones. Each level is a 2D pixelated dadventure, as you overcome a blend of platforming and puzzling to find one of your family, before chatting to them in an exchange that could have graced the Edinburgh Fringe. Dadish 3 can be that funny.
Just as before, Dadish is rubbish at doing anything. He can’t fight. He’s just a root vegetable who can double-jump, pull the odd lever, stand on pressure pads and dangle from a vine. By the end of the game, he’s less capable than most heroes when they start their adventures. But that lack of ability means that the level designs themselves have to do the heavy-lifting. They have to be inventive for Dadish 3 to be satisfying, and satisfying it very much is.
Each level isn’t particularly long, no more than five or six screens’ worth of adventuring, but it still finds room to toss in a secret to find. Spot and reach a star, and you have gained the level’s collectible. Also in the mix are boss levels, which obey the rule of threes (mostly), and don’t stick around for long. Allow us to, again, ruin one of Dadish 3’s best jokes: our favourite boss is Mr Turtle Facts who spouts facts about – you guessed it – turtles, in the middle of fights. Except they’re not particularly good facts (“turtles are reptiles”). The obviousness of the facts only makes Dadish angrier (and his son more impressed with the breadth of Mr Turtle Facts’ knowledge). For whatever reason, it tickled us.
It’s the attention-deficit that we loved most about Dadish 3. It can’t help itself: every couple of levels, a new spanner is thrown into the works. You’ve probably already gleaned that you’re going to be riding on the back of a dolphin, but you will also be running away from a giant daikon radish, pushing blocks onto malevolent hot dogs, dodging under slices of bread, and – finally – you will be getting to meet Dadish’s wife, Momato. Actually, more than meet: you will be playing as her, bouncing around levels as a giant, red space hopper.
It’s this furious inventiveness that keeps you playing. Even when a level gets tough (and it will go very much in that direction), you will have the reassurance that the next level will look nothing like it. You will be required to pull off a very different feat, test a different skill, and there’s real catharsis in that.
As noted, Dadish 3 is a step up in difficulty from the previous two games. The first two weren’t easy, necessarily, but it was possible to streak through them in a couple of evenings. Slightness was one of the biggest faults of the series, particularly when £8.39 was on the line: a not insignificant amount of money. They could often feel a tad expensive.
Dadish 3, thanks to the increased challenge and the slightly larger feeling levels (as well as the freewheeling eccentricity of them all), feels more like an £8.39 game. Dadish is sizable enough to win a best in show at the village fete. Caps are doffed to Thomas K. Young, who has overcome the biggest quibble we had about the series.
Like a lot of sketch shows that try to be as inventive as Dadish 3, some skits are more successful than others. Some vine levels are fiddly, as the grappling mechanic isn’t quite on point (Dadish doesn’t have any arms, so we can appreciate why the controls might be slippy). Some levels are spiky in their difficulty, too, requiring a suddenly large amount of concentration, with checkpoints that are too far from the sticky section. One daikon radish level had us replaying a few dozen times.
But we can’t be mad at Dadish 3 for long. A hilarious conversation between Dadish and his child will turn our frowns upside down, or a particularly imaginative platforming section will manage it instead. We could be cynical about the time-frames between Dadishes, and point to a complete lack of visual upgrade, but Dadish 3 feels immune to cynicism. Dadish 3 just a feel-good platform adventure, generous in its laughs and imagination, and you’d be hard-pressed to emerge without a smile on your face.
That said, we could happily wait a little longer for our next Dadish meal. Thomas K. Young: get some sleep. The trilogy is done, and you deserve the rest.
You can buy Dadish 3 from the Xbox Store