It’s that time! I finally talk about something that’s not books (or Sera Myu) again! OMG! And… Okay, it probably will surprise people that what I’m talking about is a dating simulator, but come on. I think just about everyone on my Twitter timeline was/is playing it at the moment I write this and it’s easily the queerest dating sim I’ve seen and played.
Yeah, I’m not really into dating sims that much, I have to be honest. The occasional visual novel with RPG elements and romance, sure, so I do have some experience with the genre, but it’s not what I usually play. At all.
I just… saw everything having a load of fun and… Well, these are the kinds of games that I don’t really want spoiled that much, so eventually I picked it up to avoid accidentally getting spoilered.
I went into the game… Honestly, I went into it expecting not to love it as much as I saw everyone else loving it. That’s usually how hype goes with me and… I think that’s the case here too, but differently from what I’m used to. Dream Daddy is just a lot of fun and incredibly uplifting to play. I don’t love it the way that my friends seem to, but I think it makes me about as happy as them all the same.
So. Storywise. You are a single dad to an 18-year-old daughter and you’ve both moved to a new neighbourhood. A neighbourhood which just so happens to be filled with other queer single dads. And Joseph, who isn’t single, but still. You meet all these single dad and hang out and… go on dates and then commit to one and… then either you end up in relationship or… you don’t. Depending on how well you’ve played.
That’s basically it for the premise. Each dad has his own ‘theme’, as usual in dating sims, and each storyline adds to the narrative. I played through the game focusing on one dad at a time, but I recommend going through all first two dates for all the dads on your first playthrough, so you get the maximum narrative impact. (After the third you go straight to the epilogue and the game is kind enough to warn you.)
That said, it lacks some of the features that I’ve come to expect of visual novels. There’s no in-game sound control and no option to skip all previously seen dialogue. It does have a fast-forward button, but you have to pay attention to where in the dialogue you are and learn when to stop because once that new dialogue line is gone it’s gone.
The save system is quite generous, though be sure to let it save in its entirety before you do anything else. (You can and I’m pretty sure it messed up one of my saves. Not an important one, thankfully.)
Something that struck me as a really fun and unique touch in Dream Daddy were the minigames. There are a couple of minigames included in the dates, such as connect-3 or mini-golf and they’re tied intrinsically to the narrative. Sometimes, when developers include minigames it feels at a remove from the narrative, but not here. Granted, I hate minigolf in all of its incarnations, including this one (especially this one THOSE HOLES ARE EVIL), but that’s not the game’s fault.
Narrativewise… Amanda’s plot doesn’t really have that much meat to it (and, I admit, I kept reading her as several years younger than 18) once you’ve played through it once, but it’s adorable to see her relationship with her dad.
Also, can I just remind everyone that the main character is a single dad who’s what, like in his early 40s? WHEN DO YOU SEE THAT IN A GAME?! LIKE EVER. AND he’s queer and, like, if they let you choose between nonbinary pronouns that would’ve been even more awesome. Because see you get to determine what your character looks like and it becomes the standard sprite for your character in dialogue and it’s just this really nice touch and <3
And did I mention this game is diverse? I mean, you can tell from the screenshot I took of the opening screen that there’s racial diversity and bodyshape diversity and… It’s just so nice.
So let’s talk narrative! Each dad route is relatively short. If you’re careful you can probably play through each route in about 6 hours in total if not less. You get to go on three dates with each dad and… I’ll be honest, I wasn’t really feeling the romantic chemistry in most of them, so if you’re looking for an in-depth romance story you’ll probably be disappointed.
But! Personally, I don’t care. Sure, I wasn’t that sold on most of the romance (except Craig and Brian), but what I was sold on where the friendships and the smaller stories between the dads and their children. Seriously, watching Amanda bond with Daisy and watching the two of them conspire to bring their dads together was an absolute delight. Trying to understand what happened between Joseph and Mary is still keeping me busy. Craig and the MC bonding together and discovering that their friendship’s become… something else now? Precious. AND ALL THE PUNS, OMG, SO MANY TERRIBLE PUNS AND DAD JOKES AND THEY ARE FANTASTIC IN THEIR TERRIBLENESS.
And then the references to other franchises or stories (most notably, I think, the brag battle). It’s been a long time since a game made me laugh out loud, never mind as much as Dream Daddydid. There’s a self-aware humour to the story that’s really endearing (as well as groan-worthy). The art used in the game is utterly gorgeous. It’s a game that doesn’t take itself too seriously and that’s part of where it’s charm lies. It’s wholly and unapologetically itself and oh so very queer.
I would have loved to see the romantic narratives be a little longer (and rely a little less on the idea of physical attraction) and I would have loved Amanda’s narrative to have been expanded into more options (and reworked so it’d feel like an 18-year-old’s “I’m about to go to college” story not a “15-year-old discovers life lessons” that… somehow… fixes itself off-screen? Maybe? Or just address her age. That would’ve been good too.) But, despite having some quibbles and not loving it as unconditionally as my friends seem to, I think this is easily my favourite game of the year so far.
It’s soothing. It made me happy. It made me laugh and cry and it’s just… It’s honest and bubbly and earnest. I do love it. It’s a precious ray of sunshine and soft blanket-warmth and I revel in how pure and sweet it is.
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