Dream Daddy is a dating simulator where you play as a dad, your goal being to date other dads. Yes, this is a thing. The game was created by Vernon Shaw and Leighton Gray with the gaming Youtube channel GameGrumps acting as a producer. While Dream Daddy looks, acts and feels like a spoof on dating sims, the game is more than a simple riff. The humor is lighthearted and filled with puns galore without ever being overbearing. In fact the characters even poke fun at their own bad jokes throughout.
The comedy is balanced out with a strong narrative, witty dialogue, and characters who breathe. Heart is buried into each interaction and the writers know just when to tug on their audience's heartstrings just a little. By the time the game is finished, you feel like you've walked through a charming visual novel that you need to immediately read again. These are just some of the highlights of the game:
1) Characters Matter and Grow
From first glance, the dad bachelors look like one dimensional characters carved out of a specific stereotype. You have the goth dad, the softball dad, the bad dad, the hipster dad, etc. They each have a distinct personality and style to set them apart and give you an idea of who you want to pursue. However, the more you play the more in depth you go into their lives and behaviors. You learn that the goth dad works in IT and volunteers at an animal shelter. The pastor dad has a bit of a rebellious and lustful side to him. Each one gradually peels away layer after layer until they resemble a real, breathing human. The best part of the game is learning about these dads and watching their stories develop.
Characters besides the dads grow as well. You learn more about your dadsona's daughter, Amanda, and what she's dealing with during her senior year of high school. You learn that Mary — the wine mom — isn't as scary as she seems and fiercely protects those she cares about. You even learn more about the various kids and your own dadsona has a personal arc. Overall, it's easy to become attached to all of them because of how well written they are.
2) The Romance Feels Natural
Some dating sims go hot and heavy on the romance and make it the one and only thing you remember. While Dream Daddy certainly has its spicier moments (Craig and Joseph's 3rd date — damn), the game develops these relationships at a natural pace. In fact, all of the relationships begin with friendship and you watch as that friendship slowly evolves into something more.
This game lets you dip your toes into the love story before submerging you in it. You get the chance to really know the bachelors as people and while you flirt here and there, the real romance comes during the final date. There's a slow build up to the confession of feelings and that first kiss, which makes the romance feel earned and sweet.
3) There's A World Outside The Dads
While a large part of the gameplay is about wooing dads, there's a story happening outside of the romantic aspect. As you hang out and go through everyone's storyline, you see more and more of the town. You also interact with the other dads and their children even if you're purely sticking to one arc. You get the chance to see the role they play in the Maple Bay community and who they have close ties to.
While the game is relatively short, the world feels immense and active. You learn just as much about the new neighborhood as you do the lives of these dads. From the vintage coffee shop to the aquarium to one of the kids selling oregano as pot in a back alley, the town offers a great deal of charm that makes you want to revisit it.
4) No Guaranteed Happy Endings
Not all of the dads give your character that "ride into the sunset" type of conclusion. It's possible to earn a happy ending with all of them, but sometimes you get gently let down during the epilogue. While it's disappointing after investing time into the dates, the endings make sense. The actions of the dads never feel out of character and give them a natural, completed arc.
For example, one of the dads, Joseph, is married throughout the game and tells your dadsona he and his wife are done during your third date. Despite the romantic night you two have, he reports that he's going to give his marriage a second chance during the game's closing scene. He's also the town's youth minister and a large part of his marriage is to keep up appearances and act as a traditional role model. He suggests staying with your dadsona in a friends with benefits relationship to which your character refuses. The Joseph ending is bittersweet, but it works for his character and his words and actions make him interesting and real.
5) The Father/Daughter Relationship
The relationship your dadsona has with his daughter, Amanda, is the crux of the game. I would even argue that this is the true pairing, which is refreshing to see a game end on a healthy family relationship rather than a romance with one of the bachelors. While some dads do get their "handed a rose" moment, the last scene is between the dadsona and Amanda as they share a heart to heart before she leaves for college.
They also end by calling themselves a team and claiming they'll always have each other's back. Honestly, I teared up with the characters at this point. Even if you don't end up with your chosen love interest, the scene with Amanda makes for a satisfying and fulfilling ending. You're left wanting to know what lies next for these two.
This feels like a one-of-a-kind game with unique characters, a charming story and an original concept. The game puts you in a better mood while you play, from the colorful graphics to the witty one-liners and evenly paced storytelling. I, for one, would love to see more visual novel games with as much charm, color, heart and humor as Dream Daddy (the music and artwork is memorable as well). I think the story and concept alone will inspire other creators and I cannot wait to see what these developers grace us with next. For now you can enjoy the game on Steam!