Video games are a social event for many gamers, with titles like Mario Kart and Super Smash Bros. having been staples at parties for over 15 years. Now, thanks to digital distribution, there are more games than ever catering to local multiplayer. While it’s been great to see new party staples such as Ultimate Chicken Horse and Samurai Gunn added to the mix, there’s no denying that the market may have reached the point of over-saturation.
The latest game to be released in the ever expanding genre is Stellar Jay Studios’ Dad Beat Dads, a platform brawler that features three different modes that pit 2-4 fathers against each other. The main mode is called Smash ‘N Grab and has each dad trying to get each other’s children. While the premise is exceptionally wacky, it basically boils down to a capture-the-flag match where you’re trying to bring each other’s children back to your base.
Players will be able to jar loose each dad’s grip on their child by hitting them with either a melee attack, or throwing an object, such as a skull, at enemies. The controls are simple and easy to learn, although the game can sometimes be finicky when trying to pick up either a skull or a power-up. The action is quickly paced, and it ends up being the mode with the most depth to it.
The other two modes essentially take aspects from Smash ‘N Grab and turn them into their own thing. Diaper Sniper, for example, goes all in on the projectile attacks. To win in this game mode, players must throw a diaper filled with a brick at their opponents. The diaper spawns in the map at the start of each round, which leads to a frantic chase to see who can get to it first. This mode may have less going on mechanically, but it makes up for it by being action packed.
The game’s final mode is reminiscent to the scrolling stages found in Super Smash Bros., and will probably be equally as divisive. Called Corporate Ladder, it’s a 2-minute competition to see who can pick up the most coins while the screen is constantly moving upwards. While other modes have 8 maps, Corporate Ladder only has 3. This is understandable, though, as each map has a meaningful impact on how Corporate Ladder plays while the maps for Diaper Sniper are more like cosmetic dressing.
Each map has different challenges for the players to both avoid and knock their competitors into. The best map of the three takes place in a Sweatshop, where players can trigger dangerous traps that’ll kill others (or themselves if they aren’t careful). Sadly, this is the only one of the three maps that have these mechanics, with the others being far too simple.
While the game doesn’t support online multiplayer, you’ll be glad to know that all three modes do support computer A.I. opponents. It isn’t ever optimal to play against the computer rather than pals, but it’s a nice way to flesh out a match when you can’t get four people together. For whatever reason, this isn’t common among multiplayer-only indie games, so good on Stellar Jay Studios for including the feature.
Another area where the title excels is in its visuals. Stellar Jay Studios’ background in animation is very evident here, as all of the characters look fantastic. It’s the small details, such as the astronaut’s attack being a Chestburster from Alien, that really show how much work was put into Dad Beat Dads. All of the stage backgrounds are varied, as well, so it’s constantly fun to look at.
Dad Beat Dads is a totally enjoyable way to spend a half hour with friends. That said, it won’t leave a lasting impression like some of its contemporaries, and you definitely won’t want to play it for hours on end. The nuance just isn’t there for long play sessions, so it’s best used as a change of pace after playing a game with a little more substance such as Smash Bros. or Towerfall. While Dad Beat Dads might not be the life of the party, it’s certainly a nice appetizer.
This review is based on the Xbox One version, which we were provided with.
Each of the three modes in Dad Beat Dads are plenty of fun, but none are outstanding. Ultimately, Stellar Jay Studios' platform brawler is more of a fun diversion than a compelling package, which is still fine, as it ends up being an enjoyable addition to anyone's party library.