Happy Valentine’s Day!
I don’t normally like to do anything for Valentine’s Day, since it’s kind of a crap holiday all about making romantic love seem like it’s the be-all, end-all goal for everyone in the world, and transforms acts of love and lust into obligations, BUT this year, I’m going with a themed post. Sort of. There’s dating involved…
Let’s talk about Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator.
Dream Daddy is pretty much exactly what it says on the tin: You play as a dad. You hang out with and date other dads. But there’s so much more to it than just romancing attractive men (which, don’t worry, there’s lots of that, too!). It’s got mystery. It’s got heartfelt emotional sequences. It’s got great music. It’s got dad jokes.
So. Many. Dad Jokes.
Let’s start with character design, since one of the first things you get to do is create a dad to play as. I love character creators and always spend an unholy amount of time customizing my avatars, and Dream Daddy did not disappoint. I spent a long time customizing Alex and had a huge amount of fun doing so.
Dream Daddy offers lots of different options in every category (except clothing. Not a ton of choice there.), but let us focus for a moment on the foundation: The body. I immediately loved this game because of those two rows of body types available. Because those two body types allow you to play as either a cis- or trans- man.
That’s right. All three body types are available as both cis- or trans-. Holy shit. It’s such a small thing to include, development-wise, but not small at all in terms of representation. LGBT+ representation is not where it should be in games, and it is so wonderful to be able to play as a trans man in a world where it’s no big deal. It’s just another fact about you, but does not define you. You are treated just like the cis men around you, because everyone knows you are just as worthy of love and respect as them. The utopian future liberals dream of.
Appearances aside — though the appearances are no small part of this game, it looks great — the characters are interesting and engaging. The various dateable dads are each charming in their way and contain a bit more depth than their outward archetypes would lead one to believe. And the kids are great too, each with their own personality, even though we don’t see a whole lot of the various children.
Except, of course, your character’s child, Amanda. Amanda is an amazing character who I grew to love over the course of the game. She’s cute and charming and smart while also containing flaws and going through struggles that keep her interesting and grounded. My heart sank when I saw her struggling or hurting, and soared when she triumphed. I really felt like her dad.
With all that gushing out of the way, let’s get into gameplay gushing.
Since Dream Daddy is a visual novel, most of the time spent in the game is reading, which is to be expected. There are a decent number of dialogue options that appear frequently enough that Dream Daddy does feel more like a game than a novel, though many of them seem to be false choices. While interacting with various dads in dates, your dialogue choices impact their affection for you, but pretty frequently — especially outside of dates — the various options are just different quips that will give your character some flavor, but not have a huge impact on how the scene plays out.
I was pretty pleased with the frequency of interaction present in the game and was fully engaged any time I turned it on. I always felt like I was interacting with the experience, rather than just letting it wash over me like some visual novels do.
Aside from the dialogue options, there are also various mini-games scattered throughout the experience. I liked the games, since they link directly into the story while still providing some variation. Each one I played was fun and simple, but I was a little annoyed that none came with any sort of directions. I was able to figure each out, because they really are simple, but I usually lost a couple of points while I figured out if I was supposed to click or use buttons or whatever. A bit more guidance would have great, especially to help out more casual audiences who don’t have as much background skill/experience with games.
Narrative and General Mood
I won’t get into any spoilers, but rest assured that the various stories in this game are great. I haven’t done all of the romance tracks yet, but the ones I’ve completed have been absolutely charming and contained pleasant surprises in character development and story progression. And for the non-date stuff, please see the gushing about Amanda above. Again, I won’t spoil anything, but I loved the story with her.
The best thing about Dream Daddy is the absolute joy that radiates from this game. It’s not always happy — sad things happen and there’s a fair bit of disappointment and sadness scattered throughout — but it’s always joyful. I always left the game feeling good, no matter how I was feeling when I started it. It made me laugh out loud more than any other game I’ve ever played and I loved spending time in its bright, candy-colored world.
If it’s not painfully obvious at this point, I highly recommend Dream Daddy to anyone who enjoys visual novels. And if you’re not sure if you like visual novels, it’s a pretty good introduction to the genre. Play it if you like comedy, romance, and cute dads.