Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator Review
When you hear about a major YouTuber making a game, you probably expect the game to be about... well, their YouTube personas. There is precedence for this after all, with Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures and PewDiePie: Legend of the Brofist having popular Internet idols self-insert themselves into the media they cover. Game Grumps, however, decided to tke a different approach with their first foray into the game making world, by taking the focus off them and making a dad dating dads visual novel. Dream Daddy has an interesting premise, but did Game Grumps make a good dating simulator?
Having just moved across town to a cul-de-sac, a dad (that's you) and his teenage daughter must work to make some new friends. Well mainly you have to make new friends, your daughter has a healthy social life already. Luckily for the socially inept main character, many of the cul-de-sacs residents are fellow fathers, and are more than willing to make a new Dad friend... and those friendships can always bud into romances.
Dream Daddy gives you a choice of seven fetching fathers to attempt to romance, and uses the hit social media site Dadbook to track your budding Dad friendships. While it doesn't take all of the guesswork out of figuring out how to best respond to your potential lover's questions and situations, it does help in making sure that random decisions don't accidentally lock you out of a path, for the most part. There is one specific decision very early on that can lock you out of one Dad's path if you choose to take it, but the game does telegraph that's a bad decision and any dates with that Dad will automatically end on disappointing notes.
Speaking of dates, each character has three dates to go on, putting you in various situations that'll help you learn more about the Dad of your choice. Some of the paths have simple minigames to play as well, such as match-3 type games and timing based games, but the majority of the game will be reading words, reading situations, and responding appropriately. It's relatively easy to know whether or not you picked the correct answers due to visual cues like hearts and eggplants, as well as a Dad date grade at the end of each date, with A and S ranks mostly ensuring the good ending for that character.
Since Dream Daddy is a visual novel at heart, a lot of the game relies on its writing to carry players through. Thankfully, Dream Daddy's script is quite good, alternating between light-hearted dad jokes and legitimate segments about being a single father and the difficulties that can bring. Each of the seven eligible fathers all have their own troubles, and going on the Dad Dates allows you to learn more about their own situations and difficulties, and hopefully work to assuage them.
The setting of Dream Daddy, with dads dating other dads, is a refreshing change a pace from most visual novels, and I'm thankful that the dialogue is well-written and tasteful. I had initial fears that there may be some accidental tactless jokes or an awkward handling of non-straight relationships in the game, but I've seen no such thing in this game. The questions at the very beginning of the game allows you to be bi or even trans, lets you specify whether you gave birth to her daughter or adopted her, and so on. Not a single character cares about anyone's sexual orientation, and the implied normalcy of non-straight relationships is perhaps the strongest statement the game can make on gay and trans relationships.
For all Dream Daddy does well though, it's really the things the title doesn't do at all that stands out as its weakest points. First and foremost, despite the good writing, most of the game's character plots start and stop abruptly. While each Dad sprinkles tidbits about themselves in their paths and others, the three dates only really give us glimpses into the other character's lives, with no real payoff. This becomes almost disappointing in the endings, wherein (if you got the good ending) your Dad and the Dad love of your choice will speak of the future, and... that's it. The credits role. The player never really gets to see where the result of these relationships truly go, and the ending comes up so quickly that some sort of epilogue was scrapped late in development.
While that is probably Dream Daddy's biggest flaw, lots of other, there's a host of minor issues that crop up over time as well. The game will reference certain events as always happening, even if your choices prevented those events from happening. The lack of CGs is disappointing, leaving all intimate moments to text boxes and black screens... and while I personally was not looking for any 18+ scenes, the lack of even safe for work illustrated moments of intimacy is a shame. Also, in spite of Dream Daddy's straightforward nature, some odd things make it vague and difficult to get certain events and even endings with your daughter and the fact that it's hard to tell if this is a glitch or intentional is troublesome.
What Dream Daddy has to offer is pretty good, but ultimately it feels just a bit unfinished. It feels like this visual novel could have used a bit more time in the oven, fleshing out events and backstories, and providing proper epilogues for the Dads. For a visual novel subgenre that's underrepresented in the West, Dream Daddy is a decent title worth your time, but I can't shake the feeling that it could have easily been so much more.