Ever since it was first announced, Game Grumps’ Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator has been the subject of much anticipation and discussion. Does this dating sim live up to the hype?
In a word, yes. Dream Daddy is an engrossing experience that charms on almost all levels. The writing throughout the game is strong, and the characters’ senses of humor and authenticity give the narrative most of its oomph. This is fortunate (and necessary) given the game’s adherence to visual novel norms. While Dream Daddy bends genre conventions here and there, it is still primarily driven by its text and artwork, rather than innovative or immersive gameplay.
A lot of the game’s pre-release build-up focused on the writing’s comedic aspects, and the final product definitely delivers in that department. Given the title and premise, one might worry that the dad jokes throughout would be overly obvious or stale, but they aren’t. The humor throughout is full of witty plays on words, and flows organically from the well-developed characters and situations.
The cast of eligible bachelors is definitely one of the game’s strongest suits. The seven suitors each have unique personalities, senses of humor, family lives, and emotional arcs. Mat charms with his relaxed, music-loving persona, but his apparent ease in social situations is more appearance than reality; his inner struggles with anxiety humanize him and allow the player character to relate to him more deeply. Robert’s dry yet over-the-top sense of humor masks some of the rawest emotional scars out of any of the bachelors, while Brian’s storyline is a relatively laid-back tale of competition, social pressure, and forgiveness. Joseph, Damien, Hugo, and Craig’s plot-lines all feel dynamic as well, and none of the characters feel redundant next to any of the others.
With that said, my main complaint about the game does pertain to the characters, or rather, the amount of time players get to spend with them. Each bachelor’s storyline is crammed into just three dates, which makes it difficult to feel adequately invested in their stories’ climaxes. The characters are all likable and have unique quirks and problems, but you can’t quite fall in love when you have such a limited exposure to each of them. Some characters’ narratives ultimately feel more rushed than others, but I would argue that roughly half the game’s endings suffer from inadequate build-up. The journeys of getting to know the bachelors are all fantastic, but too frequently the game feels like it ends prematurely.
Art-wise, Dream Daddy is well-conceived and appealing in its execution. The color palette is bright and cheerful, and the character models all ooze personality. My only grievance with the game’s visuals is that some of the background art pieces feel more sketchy and unpolished than others. The soundtrack, on the other hand, has no misses. Dream Daddy‘s music isn’t particularly innovative for the genre, but it does a great job conveying tone and contributing to the game’s sense of fun mixed with emotional authenticity.
Most of its gameplay is what you’d expect from a visual novel, but Dream Daddy does mix things up with the inclusion of several mini-games. This departure from genre norms is welcome, and reflective of the game’s general uniqueness. Unfortunately, several of the mini-games aren’t actually all that fun. Some, like fairground games and piano playing, are a nice break from the usual repetitive click motions. Others, like the golfing and gargoyle mini-games, aren’t particularly fun and, perhaps worse, do little to enhance the scenes in which they take place.
Overall, Dream Daddy is a unique and fun experience, but definitely has its flaws. The art, writing, and sound direction are all overwhelmingly positive, but the game’s short length and the inconsistent quality of its mini-games hinder it from being as good as it could be. If each character’s storyline had been drawn out just a bit more, and certain technical aspects had been more polished, then Dream Daddy could have been an amazing game. With that said, it is still a very good game, and definitely worth its price-tag, regardless of if one has prior experience with dating sims or not.