NEED TO KNOW
What is it: Dating sim about a pleasant bunch of dating dads.
Expect to pay: £11 / $15
Developer: Game Grumps
Publisher: Game Grumps
Reviewed on: Windows 10, Intel Core i5 7400 3.0GHz, 8GB DDR4 RAM, 6GB GTX 1060
Visual novels and dating simulators are strange beasts, and the intersection of those genres with comedy often results in parody. Dream Daddy sounds exactly like that—like it’s going to riff off and satire both the simplification of relationships down to dialogue options and usage of queer relationships in the genre. It really isn’t, though: beneath the dad jokes and past a first glance, it’s a game about kindness and positivity.
You play your own, custom dad, who’s moving to a new area with his daughter, Amanda. After his partner died, he’s been raising Amanda as a single father, and the two have a very close relationship. The cul-de-sac they move to is, conveniently, filled with dads, most of which are single (the other is in the perpetual relationship state of ‘it’s complicated’).
After introductions, you get to choose dads to go on dates with, which can range from trivia night with the local English teacher Hugo to fishing with handyman Brian. The third date is the kicker, though, as that decides which dad will be your Dream Daddy, ending the game. You can rush through, quickly choosing a favourite and rushing into bed together, or take your time, playing the field and going on dates with everyone before choosing your match.
For the most part those dates are wonderful. You might say the wrong things sometimes, or have to save a girl who waddled into the penguin enclosure at the aquarium, but it’s always a fun time. After each one, you’ll come back to Amanda and relay what happened, usually, followed by “I love you” and “I love you too, Pops.”
That’s what Dream Daddy is about—healthy, loving relationships where people are able to speak their mind about emotions, flaws, and love. Each dad is complicated and flawed in some way, and you don’t ‘fix’ them, but you help them in some way. The relationships you make end up improving the lives of everyone involved as these dads forge a support network.
Above all else, the dad you play wants to make sure Amanda is happy. How he goes about that is up to you—you can be stern, relaxed, a mix of the two, but the aim is always to do what’s best. That’s the same across all of the dads: even though some of them have unruly kids, the dads do their best for them. Some of the relationships end up messy—one dad is married and has some issues he’s bottling up, while another is looking for no-strings-attached hookups—but the focus is on healthy communication.
It sounds corny, but that’s the draw of Dream Daddy and it’s where it succeeds. Love one another, respect one another, and forge healthy relationships where friends aren’t afraid to ask for help, lend a hand, or just say “I love you.” That’s the core message, but here where the dad dating theme actually detracts, as it takes precedence over other issues.
The game unfortunately skirts around the cultural climate of queer politics and only gives brief mentions to the struggles of single parents, the innately queer relationships here aren’t even discussed. All the dads here just are queer in some way—and that’s that. The core message of open love between family, friends, and partners is effective, but the game avoids its sex scenes and the minefield of finding other queer folk in a predominantly heterosexual society.
These issues are conspicuous in their absence. Dream Daddy is a kind game with funny writing and uplifting themes, but neglects the greater issues it alludes to. Despite that, what is there is great—the characters are diverse, well designed, and smartly written. I was smiling for pretty much my entire time playing, and it always felt like a positive game. Dream Daddy will make you feel good even though it's ambivalent about the queer culture which it sits on.