Visual novels remain to be a popular escape for those who enjoy interactive stories. They are effectively the result of fusing together gameplay with an e-book. Dream Daddy is another one of these games, but instead of focusing on something more fantastical or sci-fi, it's a rather relaxed story of a gay (or bi) father attempting to find a partner after dealing with the death of the mother (or adopted father) of his daughter.
As you may have already concluded just looking at the name, it's essentially a gay dad dating simulator, and it's a pretty good take on the idea.
The first thing you'll immediately notice from the get go is the art style. It's fantastic. Everything from the menu screen to the creation tool, scenes to the characters themselves, the developers did a stellar job with the visuals. Everything is kept simple, which focuses all attention on the story and characters currently on screen. As a visual novel (VN), this is incredibly important and is something I found lacking in other VNs whereby you found yourself distracted by the user interface or other elements that cluttered the screen.
After creating a new game, you're taken to the character creator where you can build the main protagonist. In my initial playthrough, I opted for a Johnny Bravo look, thanks to the character's default generation reminding me of the muscle-touting Cartoon Network God. After completing this step and starting the main storyline, we're introduced to Amanda, the daughter. Amanda gets a lot of screen time, especially given that this is meant to be a dad dating simulator, but Amanda gives us a lot of insights into the main character, complete with great art and writing.
And that's reflected throughout the VN, where each character has their own unique personality and back story, leading to a more immersive world.
Each potential date looks, sounds, and behaves completely differently. Throw in some humorous dialog, nods to other games, cultural references, and you'll find yourself on an entertaining ride. Be warned, though, if you don't enjoy puns (or dad humor) then you may grow tired of this game.
Once you've started, everything acts pretty much as a standard VN. You click to progress through dialog, make some choices, play through some mini-games and eventually settle down with one of the potential mates.
One complaint I do have with the art style is the look of the main character. I'm not sure if this is because they're utilizing a character creation system, but the art work looks rather flat compared to other characters. You really do look out of place when others are in view, which is a shame.
My God, it's full of dads
The game itself has a strange aura surrounding it. Immediately, you're provided the impression that this is simply a lighthearted approach to telling a story which celebrates LGBT pride and its community. But at points, it could be viewed as a little condescending. Sure, the Dad puns are well and all but take the character creator, for example, it's a little weak and has limited options that almost feel bolted on without much thought.
While I applauded the writing for Amanda's dialogue and other characters you'll meet as the story progresses, for a VN overall it's pretty weak. This isn't helped by the fact you'll need to play through the game multiple times for the different endings that can be achieved. In total, there is a total of seven dads you can choose from to date. To see everything the game has to offer, you'll have to play through what is ultimately an unsatisfying story multiple times.
Another problem I found with the game is the options screen or, well, lack thereof. There's a menu entry to view the options window, but since there are only two options to configure, it's almost pointless including it. Music and streaming options are included, but I would have liked to see other options for text speed, auto progress, etc. These are already found in many other VNs, so I feel like it's a rather strange omission.
Without spoiling things, as progression is made, it also becomes apparent that your choices don't really have consequences. Sure, there are bad endings out there, and you can mess it up with your chosen dad, but when multiple choice windows appear, it's difficult to see how these make an impact on the story aside from altering a few numbers in the backend.
Forget the dad jokes
The question is: should you buy Dream Daddy? It's a difficult question to answer. The art is fantastic, no complaints there (aside from the main character). The story is mediocre at best but is helped by having some solid characters.
The choices, sadly, don't feel very impactful, which is another negative for a VN, but the number of endings and diverse options of dads available to date do make a notable difference.
- A unique release.
- Stunning art design.
- Interesting array of characters.
- Solid user interface.
- Rubbish options.
- Strange character creation.
- Story is mediocre and short.
At $14.99, it's a tough sell. I'd say hold off for a sale, but if you love VNs and are in the market for such a dating simulator, it may be worth picking up.
Rich Edmonds was formerly a Senior Editor of PC hardware at Windows Central, covering everything related to PC components and NAS. He's been involved in technology for more than a decade and knows a thing or two about the magic inside a PC chassis. You can follow him on Twitter at @RichEdmonds.