Dream Daddy is a 2017 dad-dating simulator visual novel published and developed by Game Grumps, a popular letsplay Youtube channel. The game is available on PS4, PC, and Nintendo Switch. It’s a hilarious game where you play as a single dad who’s just moved into a new area of the city with his teen daughter. The humour is charming and laugh-out-loud, or perhaps groan-able!
In the opening scene, you’re just packing up your things with your daughter when you come across a baby photo of her and your late spouse. You can choose whether it’s your husband or wife, which is a really great option to see in games. In fact, throughout the entire game, the fact that you’re bisexual, or other characters are queer in some way, is never really stigmatised or shown as being out of the ordinary, which is just a brilliant way to write and represent queer characters- it really normalises it. Also, you can choose whether or not your daughter, Amanda, was adopted or born. It’s small choices like this that make this game stand out.
Instantly you’ll notice the vibrant art style the game has. It’s got a summery feel to it, with a very suburban and warm aesthetic. The characters are all very different and stylised, from the gothic Damian to the put-together Joseph. It’s important for dating sims to have a good variation in possible partners, and they really hit the nail on the head with this one. You get to a customisation screen pretty early on in the game, where a funny voice line sounds: “Build that dad!”. You can really go all-out when you build your dad, they made sure to include a huge range of skin tones, body types, hair types, and all sorts. I had a hard time choosing what I wanted to go with just because of the amount of choice!
The dad-humour in the game is perfect. It manages to hold on to that cringey lovable humour whilst staying very open and progressive, which is something I imagine would have taken a lot of research and redrafting to get right. On the loading screen some fun ‘dad tips’ show up which really made me smile. There are dialogue options throughout the game and once you have access to Dadbook, (the social media platform for Dads), you can choose which of the seven dads to hang out with. The dialogue, and the protagonist’s internal monologue, also have this fantastic humour. There are also some minigames inspired by this dad-humour. When you meet Brian at the park, he begins to brag about his daughter and then you’re overcome with the need to brag back, and it turns into a strategy RPG for the mini game- brilliant! Although there are minigames, they’re quite far and few between. Just a couple more would have been nice to see, for example, when you’re at the arcade with Amanda and Craig, instead of trying your hand at the machines yourself, you can just read what’s going on from the on-screen text. Even a visual of what was happening would have been nice to see.
The worldbuilding in the game is a lot of fun and really well crafted. Amanda and you have lots of banter and inside jokes. Your shared favourite TV show is ‘Long Haul Paranormal Ice Road Ghost Truckers’, which is as insane as it sounds. In fact, despite the game being a dad dating sim, the emphasis is really on the ‘dad’ part of the title. The game revolves around your relationship with Amanda, how you go about supporting her, and then also how you will cope when she leaves for college. It’s a game about life, and not just doing on dates. The genre of dating sims has a questionable rep, but Dream Daddy offers such a refreshing take on the genre. It’s a queer dating simulator about a single parent with a daughter who’s a poc. It’s just so hopeful to see this sort of game come out.
The sound design of the game is very chilled and on-brand. There is minimal voice acting, with hums of agreement or laughter, and the occasional voice line, such as Amanda’s ‘love you’. The fact that these are a little rarer makes them real special to hear and it’s just a super cool touch.
There is a little mishap in the timeline of the game. You meet Craig’s kids and there’s little to no introduction, but then if you choose to you on a date with him in the next segment, he introduces you to his twin daughters. It’s a small oversight, but it did make me a little confused. Still, that’s the risk studios make when they go with a choice-based game. And the choices you make do have a good amount of power over the way the story unfolds. It’s not life-changing by any means, but it makes enough of a difference for you to be careful.
As you go on dates with the dads, the choices you make will either send hearts from their avatar, or a few clouds, which is presumably disappointment, and not anger. Once you’re on Dadbook, you can choose which Dads to message and hang out with. After going on a date with a dad, you’re graded on how it went. Provided you pass, you earn 1 heart on their profile. The overall layout of the Dadbook mechanic is super easy and very self-explanatory with the hearts system. By the third date, you’ve completed their story and the game ending will trigger, but the game actually warns you of this when you choose to initiate the third date, saying things might get more serious and that you may not be able to come back. This little pop-up makes for great game design, as the player won’t be annoyed to find out they can’t go back. It lets you choose if you want to get to know any other dads first.
The game ends with Amanda’s graduation party, where all the dads and their families are there to celebrate. It’s a very wholesome moment and shows that the game is so much more about Amanda and her dad than anything else. But, in terms of your dad-dating endeavours, you won’t always end up forming a relationship with them, even after date 3. Every dad has their own life, their own vices and virtues and all things in between, so it’s not always going to work out. It’s a pretty realistic take, which I think is what makes it that much more enjoyable as a game. It feels really human, and you feel like you’re making genuine connections with the characters.
Whether you spend hours going through each date or stick to the one dad you’ve got your eye on, you’re guaranteed to laugh, and also be hit by some seriously emotional moments. If you’ve played dating sims before, Dream Daddy has something really different. And if you’ve never touched the genre, it’s a brilliant example of just how good they can be.