Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator gives love a dad game.
Dating simulators often present an esoteric mix of cliches and quirks, and those that introduce high-concept comedy into the mix tend to do so satirically. DreamDaddy could so easily have been that – a parody of the way visual novels tend to simplify relationships down to dialogue options, or a commentary on the usage of queer relationships in the genre. It isn’t, though. Beneath the dad jokes, it’s a game about kindness and positivity.
You play your own, custom-created dad, who’s moving to a new area with his daughter, Amanda. After his partner died, he’s been raising Amanda as a single father, and the two have a very close relationship. The cul-de-sac they move to is, conveniently, filled with dads, most of whom are single (the other is in the perpetual relationship state of ‘it’s complicated’).
After introductions, you get to choose dads to go on dates with, which can range from a trivia night with the local English teacher Hugo, to fishing with handyman Brian. The third date is the kicker, as that decides which dad will be your ‘Dream Daddy’, ending the game. You can rush through, quickly choosing a favourite and heading into bed together, or take your time, playing the field before choosing your match.
For the most part, those dates are wonderful. You might say the wrong things, or have to save a girl who waddled into the penguin enclosure at the aquarium, but it’s always a fun time. After each one, you’ll come
back to Amanda and relay what happened, usually, followed by, “I love you,” and, “I love you too, Pops.”
That’s what DreamDaddy is about – healthy, loving relationships where people are able to speak their mind about emotions, flaws and love. Each dad is complicated and flawed in some way, and you won’t ‘fix’ them but you’ll help them in some way. The relationships you make end up improving the lives of everyone involved, as these dads forge a support network. It sounds corny, but that’s the where DreamDaddy succeeds. There’s an unrelenting kindness running through it, both in your dad’s dates and in his relationship with his daughter.
There’s an underlying motive given to your dad early on: he just wants the best for his daughter. Much of what he does, he does for her. Above all else, he wants to make sure Amanda is happy. How he goes about that is up to you, but the aim is always to do what’s best. That’s the same across all of the dads. Most activities have some underlying theme of ‘We’re doing this for our kids,’ and the dads love it.
Some of the relationships are messy – one dad is married and has some issues he’s bottling up, while another is looking for hookups – but the focus is on communication. In the cases where things went wrong, someone didn’t communicate their problems and things got out of hand. Love one another, respect one another, and forge healthy relationships where friends aren’t afraid to ask for help, lend a hand, or just say, “I love you.” That’s the core message of DreamDaddy, and it takes precedence over more serious issues. The game unfortunately skirts around the cultural climate of queer politics and only gives brief mentions to the struggles of single parents, the innately queer relationships here aren’t even discussed. All the dads are queer in some way, and that’s that.
Dad to the bone
In that respect, DreamDaddy falters. As much as the core message of open love between family, friends and partners remains, it avoids the minefield of finding other queer folk in a predominantly heterosexual society. This aspect feels important to DreamDaddy’s message, and unfortunately isn’t addressed. Dream Daddy is kind and nice, with writing that’s funny and uplifting, but it neglects the greater issues it alludes to. It doesn’t push the boat out in its social commentary.
Despite that, what’s here is great. The characters are diverse, well designed, and smartly written. I was smiling for pretty much my entire time playing, and it always felt like a positive game. Unfortunately, though, it’s ambivalent about the queer culture it sits on.
There’s an unrelenting kindness running through it