Sam Brooks takes the plunge and reviews the dating sim that not only lets you play as a dad, but lets you date other dads.
“Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator is a game where you play as a Dad and your goal is to meet and romance other hot Dads. Are you ready? Hi ready, I’m Dad.”
When this game showed up on the Steam store, I was always gonna drop $18 of my human dollars I had worked for on it. The joke factor was enough: it’s a game where you play a dad who wants to date other dads! Why wouldn’t I play it? And then write about it so more people would be convinced to buy it.
Now I have to step back and make two confessions:
- I quite like visual novels. It’s largely a Japanese format, and the name is helpfully literal: these games are like a novel you look at. Sometimes they have a sliver of gameplay that requires a modicum of skill, but usually you just sit and watch the plot play out. The most recently popular of these kinds of games would be the Ace Attorney series. The plots are complex, completely insane and utterly engrossing. They also fulfill my satisfaction for wanting to play a game for the story but not any of the gameplay.
- I will play almost any game with gay content. This has lead me astray too many times to count. I have played a lot of very bad games for this reason.
Both of these predilections, as well as a pretty cool art style, lead me to buying and reviewing DreamDaddy.
DreamDaddy knows exactly what it is, and what its audience is. It’s the Twitter-hovering, favving, retweeting, screenshotting folk. It’s the people who love meta humour, who love it when a product knows, and references, exactly what it is. DreamDaddy is the RuPaul’s Drag Race of video games; it’s a parody of the thing it is while being maybe the best example of the thing it is.
Because while DreamDaddy purports to be a visual novel, and it honestly doesn’t purport to be that very strongly, it’s actually a dating sim. It actually says that in the tagline, so I don’t know why I was surprised.
Dating sims are the underclass of video games, they’re not regarded as legitimate video games. It’s half a step removed from hentai, and zero steps removed from wish fulfillment. DreamDaddy is not this kind of dating sim and bends itself into knots making sure that it’s not that kind of dating sim. In fact, it might be the first entirely PG-rated dating sim out there.
But that’s enough framing: what the hell is DreamDaddy?
The premise of DreamDaddy is simple. You make a dad, who has moved to a new neighbourhood with his daughter, and you go about dating dads while also raising your daughter. The dialogue is witty, and highly, highly self-aware. This game wants you to laugh at it, and it wants you to be emotionally invested at the same time.
And honestly you guys, it works. For all the ridiculous posturing, for all the ridiculous wink-wink moments, this game gets you invested. And it isn’t even with the other dads, who are so conspicuously diverse that it might feel like ticking boxes if the rest of the game weren’t so earnest.
Because while this game is pretty honestly a dating sim, it’s also a game about being a good solo dad to your teenage kids. I have the paternal instincts of a decapitated praying mantis, so this was jarring as hell. However, I also have the ability to imbue almost anything with sentimental value, so I was hooked immediately. There’s a point where your daughter doesn’t text you when she goes out late at night, and you get the choice of harassing her, telling her off when she gets back, or leaving it alone (if you’re a goddamned monster who wants your virtual daughter to die!)
For all its humour, and screenshottable moments, where DreamDaddy succeeds most is genuinely normalising a strange situation. It gets you invested in these daddies, for wants of a better word, and their drama and their damage, while also balancing your interest in these men with wanting to take care of your daughter.
I decided to date Brian, because he seemed like a good guy, he was proud of his daughter and he seemed like someone with the skills to take care of my single dad. That plotline revolves largely around your dad and his dad competing, in classic dad fashion, and concludes with the startlingly honest and stark conversation with them discussing if they actually hate each other or if there’s something deeper. It’s the kind of moment that your triple-A games would skate around, to their detriment, but a smaller game like DreamDaddy can focus on, and to its credit, does focus on.
It’s a short game (I blitzed through it in about three hours, but there’s multiple endings and multiple dads to romance) but a surprisingly affecting one. The game is both the set-up and punchline, but it’s also a game that hooks you in quickly and emotionally.
Also it’s called DreamDaddy. Aren’t you just a little bit curious to date some dads?
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