WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD FOR DREAM DADDY!
In the vein of trying something a bit different, today I’m going to write a review for Dream Daddy, a VN dating simulation game that came out July 20th. Before beginning, keep in mind all the opinions in this review are mine alone. If you disagree with the opinions, that’s awesome, and I’d love to hear it in the comments. However, I ask that you take no personal offense to them, and know that I respect everyone involved in the project for the hard work they put in.
That being said, let’s begin.
For those out of the loop, Dream Daddy is a dating simulation game where you play as a widowed, single father who moves with his daughter, Amanda, into a new neighborhood. As it would happen, this new neighborhood is filled with many fathers whom you can “hang out with.” The game follows typical dating simulation protocol: you go on a date with your chosen candidate, and your dialogue choices affect how well the situation turns out. There are a total of 7 dads you can date, so there is a decent variety of storylines to follow.
Below, you will find my pros and cons about the game, as well as some blurbs with the points in case you want more explanation.
- The comedic spirit of the writing is well-done
This is by far the best aspect of the game. You have dad-puns, you have sarcastic comments about your daughter’s fantasy crime life, you have your dad asking a dog to impart its wisdom upon you, etc.. So much of the writing has a comedic focus, and it’s just really great. Even if you’re not a fan of certain genres of comedy, there’s definitely gonna be something in this game that makes you laugh. The writing style also suits the premise well. I mean, the idea that you somehow conveniently live in the same cul-de-sac as a bunch of eligible dads is a bit ridiculous. However, because there’s so much comedy, the game is given the right amount of not taking itself too seriously. It just brings a really special and light-hearted flavor that not a lot of dating sims have.
- The game is very aesthetically pleasing
Like the style or not, it is very well-done. The line-work and coloring is just beautifully polished and crisp all around. The characters have really nice details to them and a variety of poses and expressions. Even the backgrounds have great polish and details. It’s honestly just a very stand-out aspect. This is especially considering a lot of first VNs are not necessarily that high in visual quality given the amount of time it takes to create assets. I really applaud all the artists who worked on this game, because it just beautiful, and all their hard work shines through.
- The cast is pretty diverse
This is probably the point of why so many people took an interest in the game (besides being produced by the Game Grumps that is). Its cast is indeed ethnically diverse, which is definitely nice to see when compared to a lot of other dating simulations. However, I also want to mention that personality wise the cast is pretty diverse there as well. Robert is grumpy, Craig is super dude-bro into fitness, Hugo is authoritative, etc.. No character blends into the other, which is really great. After all, dating sims are half about picking whose personality you like the best, so it’s not really a good thing when people blend in that manner (which is something that can happen easily in dating sims). This is definitely a plus for the game in my book.
- The game isn’t all fluff and has some real issues within it
One thing I don’t see too often in dating sims is real world issues handled in a real world manner. I mean, I’ve seen tragedies in dating sims like someone’s parent was abusive, someone close to them died, etc.; but, the way its handled is usually lackluster and within a certain fiction vein. I don’t feel this game is plagued by that issue. Rather, it’s got some real hardcore topics, such as Joseph and Mary’s really terrible marriage that is only held together by the fact they have four kids. Like, every uncomfortable gesture to that is handled in a way you’d expect a real person to handle that (with unavoidable, fictional licenses taken here or there of course). All the serious issues in this game are just nice to see being represented, because these are issues we deal with in the real world. They are also depicted pretty well, so points all around.
- While the “Build-a-Dad” feature is nice, its stylistic inconsistency with the rest of the game makes it kind of an eyesore
Now, I’m not saying the feature’s art is bad, because I definitely don’t think that’s the case. However, after doing more than one play-through, you really start to notice how different the art styles are. In particular, the “Build-a-Dad” graphics have much, much thicker line-work, which stands out drastically compared to other characters. For me, this personally broke some of my immersion, and I kind of spent a lot of the game wishing I could turn my dad’s bust off and just never see it. I definitely wish they’d have at least done thinner lines for the dadsonas so it’d fit in a bit more. Alas this was not the case.
- Little to no interaction with the kids
While I don’t have kids yet, one thing I do know about them is they take a lot of time and attention. Assuming you’re a good parent, at least, they are a central aspect of your life. So, when someone said “dad dating sim,” I was stoked to see how someone would handle writing a single father interacting with potential step-kids; that’s just not something you see written in a dating sim. Boy, was I disappointed. Sure, your dad talks to the other kids sometimes, but this is very, very rare, and it’s usually in a more benign context that has nothing to do with relationship building. The kids might as well be fancy dogs that need to go to school in this game. This just struck a sour note with me, because it just seems horribly unrealistic not a single one of these dads would date you without kind of testing the waters with the kids. I mean heck, in Craig’s path he even says he feels weird about dating someone else because of his kids. Do you seem to have bonded with them at the end on his path? Nope, not at all really. Amanda has, but you sure haven’t. It really bugged me, because it turns being a dad into a trope rather than a real world issue. For a game that’s trying to have realistic, subverting aspects, this was just one of many slaps in the face that were to come.
- Numerous glitches and writing inconsistencies
I read the credits. I know there were game testers. Yet, somehow, there are so many glitches and writing inconsistencies that should not have been present on that game’s release. Particularly the latter makes me mad, because they’re related to choices you make. For example, when you arrive at the school to meet Hugo, it says you hadn’t showered. However, the line just before that if you’d slept with Robert says you did shower. To me, this says that not only did no one really QA the writing, but they had poor control over their choice system when developing the game.
That being said, I am aware at this point the game has supposedly been patched for some of these issues. Trust me, the patch did not fix much. I actually have lots of graphics issues now when I load up the game that I didn’t have before. I can also verify at least one writing inconsistency I knew existed has not been fixed. For me, I can’t really tell if this patch fixed much. I also still stand by the fact these issues should not have been present on a release day. Having so many writing inconsistences in a VN game is the same magnitude of releasing an RPG where a handful of spells for mages are completely broken. It is just a really disappointing thing to see, and since they still haven’t been fixed entirely I’m gonna count this as a con still.
- The dating paths are very short and lead to cookie cutter endings (and poor writing in some cases)
For me, this is the largest con that should be discussed. Now, with dating sims, there’s a degree by which one can expect the endings will be similar. After all, there’s a point where you have so many choices it’s hard to write and account for every single permutation. However, most dating sims like to have a bit of meat to their endings for your chosen significant other. Dream Daddy decides that’s not the path to take. Instead, 90% of all the endings are the same, and you maybe get a 20 line scene with your chosen significant other to reflect that they’re your chosen significant other. That’s about it. And believe me, the payoff is as disappointing as that sounds. Nothing feels changed or earned, and it immensely feels like they ran out of time to give worthwhile endings.
This is not to mention that, overall, the game is very short if you single out one dad and date them consistently. It only takes three dates to woo them, and because the time passage is so vague it’s hard to know how long you’ve even gotten to know the characters. Coupled with the ending, this leaves one feeling like more development should have occurred, adding to the sort of abrupt ending that occurs when you “win” the game. Thus, what should have been likeable characters are more polarizing. There’s just a point the development feels so rushed their personalities become flat and un-impactful.
I think the biggest showcase of this is actually Brian’s path, if you need an example. You spend the first two dates hating and competing with him (with a few flirty moments that don’t really make sense in the context). In the third date, you go from hate, to starting over, to deciding let’s date. In. One. Date. WTF!?
Of note, some of the endings are also just vastly disappointing, which I chalk up to the fact the writers were focused largely on subverting the genre. In their efforts to subvert, they forgot to learn why people like dating sims. Thus, you wind up with a game that just fails to deliver its subverting message, and instead just becomes a generic, average dating sim.
So, to summarize, I wouldn’t say it’s a bad dating sim. It definitely has a lot of positives that blow other indie dating sims out of the park. On the other-hand though, all the cons I’ve mentioned still make this a rather average game. Is it worth playing? Yes, but I wouldn’t go in expecting the experience of a lifetime. Its novelty wears off rather fast, and all the issues come to the surface.
In the end, my ultimate conclusion is that you should play it. However, if what you enjoy about Dream Daddy is its WTF factor and its attempts at subverting the genre, play Hatoful Boyfriend instead. It is a far superior dating sim in that regard.
Dream Daddy is © to Game Grumps and all affiliated parties.
Image: Screenshot of one of my Dadsona while playing through Brian’s path.