Dating Simulators have quite the reputation. Not only do they provide an opportunity to date the person of your dreams, but the bird, alpaca, and fast food item of your heart. No, I’m not kidding. The movement we’ve been waiting for has finally arrived, though, with Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator. Who can resist ogling dads as they grill the perfect steak, show off dance moves, and tell those classic jokes?
Before we can go hunt for the dad of our dreams, it’s important to look the part. Dream Daddy kicks things off with an amusing character creator filled with varying hair styles, body types, and clothing. I spent a while making multiple silly dads, until realizing that I should probably get on and play the game. So after making the final touches to Jeff JefftyJeff (never ask me to name anything), the story began.
Everything starts with protagonist Dad and his daughter Amanda moving to a new house. While checking out the neighborhood, it becomes clear that they share the area with a number of eligible dads. We’ve got dads of all shapes and sizes here, including a musical coffee shop owner, Dad’s dude-bro best friend from college, and a Victorian loving goth. Throughout the story Dad helps the neighbours with their varying problems, while keeping a firm eye on his daughter.
Being a dating sim, Dream Daddy essentially plays out like a visual novel. Don’t let the amount of reading put you off though. Most of the text is really entertaining and packed full of puns. I quoted lines so often to my partner that he soon gave up on what he was doing to just sit by me and laugh along for himself.
After about an hour of set up, the game introduces Dadbook. Here, I got to pick which of the seven dads to go after. Just in case you haven’t decided, the game provides fantastic little profiles for each dad on offer. Fitness fanatic Craig, for example, mentions that his ideal date would be scaling a huge mountain for fun. From here it’s just a case of picking the same dad to date three times in a row. Depending on the choices made, and performance in any mini-games, I’d then be rewarded with a good, bad, or secret ending.
Getting the best endings was a matter of watching the animations that flutter around the current love interest after making certain choices; hearts for good, eggplants for great, or black smoke for bad. Anyone just looking to nab those best endings will find these animation prompts super helpful. I kind of wish they were optional though, instead of the game just handing out all the answers for free.
To be fair, the occasionally sprinkled-in mini-games are all down to a test of your own “dadliness”. Most of these are just good silly fun, such as a Pokémon styled fight where you boast about your daughter’s accomplishments. Others really aren’t clear on what they want you to do though, and some are way harder than they need to be (I’m looking at you mini-golf). Luckily, it’s never necessary to completely ace these games to get a good ending, although completely failing them will cost you that sweet S level dating rank.
When I started playing Dream Daddy, I expected to find a silly game full of goofy humor. While I certainly found that, I was surprised by the amount of heart put into every story. There is a very clear message about parenthood going on here. Each dad suffers from very real parenting and general life struggles. How do you know you’re being a good parent? When your children always come first, where does your role of a parent end and your ability to just be yourself begin?
Amongst these dad troubles, there’s a lovely story between protagonist Dad and his 18-year-old daughter. Not only is there some wonderful banter between these two, but the developers have completely nailed the whole relationship. I realized I was frowning at the screen with concern when she came back from school with puffy eyes, and genuinely smiled for each moment she did something to be proud of.
For all the heart that’s gone into Dream Daddy, it’s such a shame that the conclusions aren’t overly satisfying. The big reason for this is that for a dating sim, it’s rather lacking in the romance department. Despite the odd blush and bulging muscle, the focus is on helping your chosen dad with his problems. Yes, there is a very clear build of friendship going on, just not an increase in romance. As a result, words of affection suddenly come out of left field in the concluding moments. It was actually kind of awkward at times.
Ultimately, three dates aren’t enough time to build a true relationship. Even the developers seem to be aware of this. Before the final date, there’s normally a quick spiel explaining that the dads have been on varying activities together since the last big date. In other words, they’re asking me to believe that affection grew during the time I wasn’t allowed to take part. Why not show off the dad romance? It’s in the title.
A lot of effort has clearly gone into Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator. You certainly get your money’s worth of dad puns, and the focus on parental problems created a more meaningful experience than I expected. As a dating sim, the game does fall kind of short. Yet I’ve got to give credit to a title that had me giggling all the way through.
This review is based off a PC version of the game, which we were provided with.
Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator fulfils its promise of silly dad humour and heartwarming fatherly moments, but just falls short when it comes to the romance.