I first heard about Dream Daddy from my wife, and I gotta tell you it was a little weird to hear about. “A dating simulator where you are a single dad, trying to hook up with other single dads? You WANT this game?” Indeed she did, and since it was cheap and we had the funds I said “what the heck” and we got the game on Steam. Shortly after it came out, I started hearing about it from more than just my wife. I started seeing other bloggers posting about it, YouTubers and streamers beginning their dad-dating journey, and even the tabletop RPG creators and players I follow on Twitter were posting about this game. So present was it in the media that I found myself wondering: could this game actually be good?
One evening when my wife was playing, I mentioned to her that I had toyed around with the idea of playing the game so I could review it on the blog. Her reaction was immediate. “I was thinking the same thing! Get over here, you have to start right now. Make your character!” Within moments I was diving into the strange world of this dad dating sim. So how does it hold up? What, if anything, makes Dream Daddy special?
MY REVIEW PROCESS
If this is your first Adventure Rules Review, here’s how it works. I score games on five categories: Visuals, Audio, Story, Gameplay, and Value. Each individual category is ranked somewhere between 0 (awful) and 2 (great). At the end, the categories are all added together for the game’s raw score, which will be a number between 0 (again, awful) and 10 (great). In some cases, I feel that a game is more (or less) than the sum of its parts, so I may add a score adjustment between -1 and +1. An example of why that might happen is because I feel a particular category has more significance than others because of the game’s style or genre, so I want to weight it more. You can take it or leave it – some prefer to treat the raw score as my “actual” score for the game, and that’s up to you. The raw score is more objective – the final score after the adjustment is a more realistic representation of how I, Ian, enjoyed the game regardless of its objective value.
So what is Dream Daddy? This game was conceptualized and developed by a team of new players on the game design block: the Game Grumps. Yeah, the YouTubers. It follows the story of a single father and his daughter Amanda after they move to the neighborhood of Maple Bay. Amanda is a senior in high school and will be college bound before long, and her dad is a pretty lonely fellow…luckily, there are seven other dads to hang out with conveniently placed in the same cul-de-sac! Using the very inventive social media platform Dadbook, you arrange to hang out with these ridiculously handsome dudes until maybe someday hanging out turns into something a little bit more. With the premise out of the way, let’s dive right in and check out what Dream Daddy has to offer!
As a dating sim, Dream Daddy is a visual novel game. Most of the game’s graphics are character portraits over a backdrop, with some settings recurring throughout the game and most characters having one main outfit and then a small collection of different poses or facial expressions. The art of this game is pretty solid. The character designs look good, if a bit unrealistic – there’s a grand total of one dad with a “dad bod” and everyone else is super cut even if they don’t work out (which I imagine really bothers Craig, the fitness-obsessed dad-bro). But hey, this is a dating sim, and idealized physicality is pretty much par for the course.
The game’s backgrounds look good too, with fun little details or easter eggs to see if you’re keeping your eyes open. My biggest complaints about those are that certain ones are reused in situations where they don’t necessarily make sense. There’s pretty much only one “inside the car” backdrop, for example, despite the fact that you aren’t always in the same vehicle and those vehicles are not always driving in the same place. But the backdrops are ultimately just that – backdrops – and the real focus is on the characters in the foreground.
Throughout Dream Daddy you’ll find yourself playing mini-games, and these are where graphics can get a little less impressive. Say what you will about visual novels, at least the carefully designed and animated characters look good. Many of the minigames look polygonal and while it isn’t so bad that you can’t tell what you’re looking at, it can be kind of jarring to go from the attractive storybook style to what looks like the graphical style of Final Fantasy VII.
Overall, the visuals in Dream Daddy do what they set out to. They are certainly not the focus of the game – then again, if you’re into shirtless dads maybe they ARE the focus of the game! The art style that is present throughout the majority of the game is aesthetically pleasing and features solid design work. Overused backgrounds and poor graphics for the mini-game sequences bring down the overall quality – I’d give the art itself a 1.5, but the game has to be judged as a whole and not every aspect of the presentation earned that score.
Score: 1 – Average
“DrreeeeeEEEEEeeeeaaaam Daddy!” The theme song of this game is still stuck in my head. The overall vibe of Dream Daddy’s sound design is simple and clean. The tracks have the appropriate ambiance for the appropriate moments: sad scenes have sad music, fun scenes at home with your daughter have a quirkier sound, and romantic moments feature slow, soft music to set the mood. None of the songs in Dream Daddy are bad – except the one that’s supposed to be bad during your first date with Mat.
None of the scenes in Dream Daddy are fully voiced, or really even partially voiced. You just get little voice clips here and there with things like gasps, groans, laughs, or simple phrases like “sweet Christmas!” (disclaimer: that may not actually be one). The dads do have special lines they say on the “date end” screen, and they are sometimes funny, so that’s cool. Despite the fact that voice acting in the game is pretty simple it really does make a difference. Most folks did their voices just fine, but there were some standouts good and bad. Erika Ishii, who voiced the player character’s daughter Amanda, did really well. From her cocky “heh” when her snarky comments get the better of you to her playful “pew pew” when she does finger guns, she really brought Amanda to life and it added a lot tot he character for me. Conversely, as much as my wife will want to hit me for saying this, I felt Ray Narvaez Jr. did not do well with the role of Hugo Vega. His voice just doesn’t fit Hugo’s personality or look, and it always felt really disjointed from the character. I originally thought this was because I recognized Ray’s voice from watching his streams, but I am also very familiar with Nathan Sharp (who played Craig) and I was able to easily accept him in his role.
Overall, the sound design in Dream Daddy is perfectly average. The occasional song is catchy, but most just fit in the moment and are pretty forgettable. The voice cast does what’s expected from them, no more, no less. There are exceptions on the positive and negative ends of the scale. Ultimately, I found myself playing YouTube in the background when playing this game because the sound design didn’t necessarily do all that much to keep my auditory attention.
SCORE: 1 – Average
Aha, now we’re to the real meat of the game. As a visual novel and dating simulator, Dream Daddy is all about its story and characters, this aspect of the game being its main draw. The plot overview I gave towards the beginning of the review is honestly pretty much the long and short of the game’s overarching story – the real meat is in getting to know the different dads in the game.
There is a total of seven different dads to date, and while at first glance most of them seem to line up pretty strongly with common tropes, a number of them do end up being more than what they seem at first glance. The story of Dream Daddy isn’t afraid to get a little bit real, addressing issues like insecurity, infidelity, alcoholism, and loss, but never on a level where I feel like the game needs to issue a trigger warning. It’s a dating sim, after all, and whenever a serious issue comes up it’s all about how your relationship help overcome the problem. But even then, this game isn’t as simple as that, and not every ending may be exactly what you’d expect from a visual novel game.
I honestly found this aspect of the game really refreshing, as I was worried that what I had gotten myself into was a homosexual version of the typical free online dating sim: memorize the correct series of conversation prompts and at the end, you get to BANG! Instead, Dream Daddy is (generally) more tasteful and touching. While there are certainly moments of sexual tension in the game, most of the relationships are dealing more with the early signs of romance: awkward finger touches and blushing compliments are much more prevalent than double-meanings and steamy groping.
As a game about dads, no analysis of Dream Daddy would be complete without discussing how kids factor into the game. You’ll be spending a decent amount of time with your daughter Amanda and she’s a real treat. She has a great personality and sense of humor that make her really endearing, and the relationship between her and your character is overwhelmingly positive. While it could certainly be described as idealized, I wouldn’t go so far as to call it unrealistic. My mom and I have always been close and we had a pretty healthy and honest relationship when I was a teenager, so while I think they could have done more to portray a more common parent-child relationship it didn’t create one totally outside the realm of possibility. The children of the other dads play varying roles in the story, with primarily the teenage children making frequent appearances throughout while the younger kids don’t factor in all that often.
When it comes to negatives about the story in characters, my complaints are pretty minor. Some dad endings seem a little less genuine than others, and while certain dads are well-written and evolve beyond the initial trope that defines them, it often takes until the third date to make that happen. And since the third date ends the game, you don’t get to “keep” any of the discoveries you make about the dads. This makes their characters seem flat in other dads’ story arcs. I also wanted them to explore Amanda a little bit more – early game, it seems like making good parenting choices can build up to Amanda being successful in school (or the opposite for bad parenting), but once you’ve met all the dads and get access to Dadbook Amanda becomes more of a side interest. You can talk to her, brag about her to other dads, and even keep items you gain during dates as gifts for her, but ultimately her character development stops once the dating sim aspects of the game really get going. I would have liked to see that carry through the rest of the game as well.
Overall, the story and characters are where Dream Daddy really shines. Although you don’t always see to the true heart of these hunky dads until the final date, they are more than what they appear at the outset and some of their story arcs are truly satisfying to finish. A little bit more depth for each of the dads and for Amanda would have perfected what is already a pretty strong experience when it comes to story and characters.
Score: 1.5 – Good
When it comes to gameplay in this sort of game, it’s honestly a bit hard to talk about. There’s a whole lot of clicking to be had as you select conversation options and cycle through dialogue. There are no seek-and-find elements to this game, no interactive backgrounds to click on or areas to investigate for funny quips or useful items. If you don’t like to read or only like to play games that are consistently interactive, Dream Daddy probably isn’t the game for you.
Most of the date arcs in the game feature at least one mini-game to play. These mini-games are the most interactive portions of Dream Daddy, but honestly in my view they drag the gameplay down more than pull it up. You are dropped into most of these mini-games with no clue of what you’re supposed to do outside of a catchy three word intro like “fix that radio!” The controls are all yours to figure out, the goal too, and much of the time the success of your date depends somewhat on your ability to do well in the mini-games. Yet the total lack of guidance makes many of them difficult to accomplish, at least on the first try. I attempted the concert mini-game for my first date with Mat six times before finally giving up on trying to finish it successfully. There’s no balance, either – the minigames are either frustratingly unguided or so simple that they may as well not be interactive. While they are meant to add some interactivity and a change of pace to what is otherwise a very reading-intensive visual novel game, they bog it down and the fact that your date scores can depend on your success at them is honestly pretty aggravating.
As a visual novel game, Dream Daddy has very little legitimate gameplay and what interactivity it does have leaves something to be desired. If you enjoy reading text and can get roped into a story, this game will still appeal to you, but don’t expect it to deliver much when it comes to the interactivity traditionally associated with video games.
Score: .5 – Poor
A game’s value lies in the time and enjoyment you get out of it relative to the money you paid for it. Here in the States, Dream Daddy costs right around $15, which is a pretty fair price for an indie game. I think the game lasted me somewhere between 15-20 hours, a good length for a simple visual novel like this. I think of Dream Daddy and games like it as side projects, the fun, turn-off-your-brain type game you play in between the heavy, challenging, or otherwise lengthier games in your life. Dream Daddy filled that role for me pretty nicely.
That said, there’s not much to Dream Daddy in the way of replayability. Once you’ve been on every date, you’ve been on every date. Yeah, you can experiment with conversation options or try to beat your high scores in mini-games for trophies, but as far as story or character development this game is over when it’s over. A completionist might strive to get an S rank on every date, but this isn’t necessary to beat the game and unlock the gallery pictures for each dream daddy.
Additionally, the game took me as long as it did because I dated every single dad all three times, read through the conversations, and sometimes saved and restarted just to see what different reactions I could get to certain statements. If you’re a quicker reader than me, are better at mini-games, or simply go through one time without trying to discover the best possible outcome, you won’t get as much time out of this game. Once you’ve played it once, you could fast forward through conversations and choose the right options to get S ranked dates and probably finish the game in only a few hours. A lot of the game’s value is in how much you want to read through everything.
Ultimately, I feel that you get what you paid for with Dream Daddy. You’re not getting cheated out of your money for the price but you’re spending your $15 on a one-time experience rather than something with a lot of replay value. Still, if you really put time into the game and give effort to caring about the story and characters, you’ll get plenty of hours out of Dream Daddy and it’ll be worth the price of admission.
Score: 1 – Average
Visuals: 1 – Average
Audio: 1 – Average
Story: 1.5 – Good
Gameplay: .5 – Poor
Value: 1 – Average
RAW SCORE: 5 – AVERAGE
Okay, so the first thing I want to point out here is that the score system I use doesn’t line up with your typical “50% is an F” grading system like school. A 5 here on Adventure Rules is right in the middle – it’s a perfectly fine game with some good stuff and some bad stuff. Objectively, from a mechanical perspective, I think that’s a fair thing to say about Dream Daddy. With the exception of portraying LGBTQ+ relationships rather than heterosexual ones, you’re not necessarily getting anything here that you wouldn’t get in the typical dating sim when it comes to presentation and gameplay.
However, I think it’s important to factor genre into consideration when looking at a game’s final score. Just like it wouldn’t make much sense to fault a game like Mortal Kombat or Mario Party on its lackluster story, it isn’t fair to judge the gameplay and story in a visual novel game equally. The design philosophy of the genre places value on one over the other. And my personal experience with Dream Daddy felt better than a perfectly average experience – it was an above average, positive experience better reflected by a somewhat higher score.
In a dating sim, characters are more important than gameplay. They are the focus of the game. And while the mini-games of Dream Daddy took me out of the experience and frustrated me, interacting with Amanda and my various dad-neighbors always drew me right back in. Because I feel that my personal experience with the game was pretty positive and the game’s story and characters should be more heavily weighted than the gameplay itself, I am giving the game a score adjustment of +1.
Dream Daddy is a shining example of its genre. Visual novel dating sims can easily devolve into fanservice, but Dream Daddy strives for more than that. The dates don’t just pander but offer genuinely fun and interesting characters to get to know. While the gameplay leaves a lot to be desired, the snarky dialogue more than makes up for it in my view. Dream Daddy won’t change your mind about visual novels if you don’t love the genre, but it does stand up as a positive example of what this type of game can look like if done well.
FINAL SCORE: 6/10 – AVERAGE
Hey, adventurers, want to know who turned out to be MY dream daddy? Be sure to come back Monday at 9 AM EST for a more in-depth look at the single dads you can date in the game, complete with my spoiler-filled opinions on their dates and endings. If you’ve played the game already and want more detailed thoughts on specific moments in the game, that’ll be the post to check out!