How many of you out there are surprised?
Yes, it appears that even if I say that I’m probably not going to buy a game, I’m going to end up buying it anyway so long as you slap “dating sim” on it and give me pretty art. Though Dream Daddy had a couple problems coming out of the gate and still has a few glitches, my experience with the game has been nothing but positive. I’ll get into the wonderfully fluffy details below the cut, but allow me to give my TL;DR right here. If you’re interested in the game at all, it’s worth purchasing; the writing is fun and everyone is kind of great. Also, if you want cute routes, definitely go for Mat or Damien. Drama? Hit up Robert or Joseph. More information? Well, just follow me below the cut.
Spoilers for Dream Daddy below.
If you checked out my Trailer Tuesday on the game, then you already have a pretty good idea what it’s about. You (as your dadsona) and your daughter Amanda are moving from your old home to a new neighborhood after the death of your spouse. As a highly relatable dad with social anxiety, you’re more keen to spending nights in watching Long Haul Paranormal Ice Road Ghost Truckers rather than making new friends and having anything resembling a social life. Amanda, however, has other ideas. You see, your dear daughter is heading off to college soon and doesn’t want to leave dear old dad waiting on the couch for a sign that she’s still alive. So she forces you to explore Maple Bay with her, meeting several handsome bachelors on the way. As the prologue comes to a close and both of you return from the most dad-filled neighborhood barbeque ever, your social life seems to be looking up and Amanda couldn’t be more proud.
While each bachelor’s route has its beautiful moments, I want to first talk about the most beautiful thing in this game: the relationship between Amanda and her dad. Amanda does end up filling the role of wingman quite often, but she’s so much more than that. In the middle of dates and dad-ventures in Maple Bay, there’s an entire subplot about Amanda’s struggles in getting accepted into an art college, and the drama she’s forced to go through with the friends she’s had since elementary school. She has her own problems and motives, and even some she won’t tell you about (who tells their parents everything anyway)? There’s nothing more rewarding than hearing Amanda say “I love you dad” after something happens to bring the two of you closer, and honestly some of the best writing in the game is between you and Amanda. The two of you support each other fiercely and indefinitely; what else could you want?
For their parts, the other fathers have compelling relationships with their children as well. Some of them have it harder than others, like Hugo and his son Ernest Hemingway (I’m serious), who constantly don’t get along because Hugo is a strict teacher and parent and Ernest is a vaping little shit who doesn’t listen to authority, or Joseph, who has four children, and two of them—twins—act like the twins from The Shining around other people. Some of the parents have it easier, like Brian, whose daughter Daisy is incredibly intelligent, far beyond what even Brian himself understands, or Craig and his three daughters, who all participate in little league together. (Well, two of the daughters do, since the other is a toddler). This spectrum of relationships only helps to prove that mlm don’t all fit into one specific preconception of what a mlm parent or a male single parent is. These characters and their relationships are diverse. They all have their own stories to tell, and none of them are less important or valid than the others.
This is also the main draw to the different romance routes. I’m not going to talk about any of them in detail—you should experience the stories for yourself rather than have it spoiled entirely in one fell swoop—but I will say that none of them are quite what I expected them to be. Each of them have an important lesson to impart to the player, all wrapped up in a cute set of three dates. Craig’s in particular surprised me. Going into the game I wasn’t really digging him—I’m not a jock in any way. But as I delved deeper into what he was going through, I found myself sympathizing hard with his story arc of learning to take time for yourself, and how hard that is to do when you’re busy taking care of others all the time. So while it’s easy to place the dads into categories, the game goes out of its way to show you that these labels aren’t the only facets to these people.
Another thing Dream Daddy did surprisingly well was inclusivity. Even as early as the beginning choices in the prologue, the game makes sure to let the player make any type of dad they want. You can choose to be a bisexual/pansexual dad who had a wife previously; you can choose to have had a husband; you can choose whether or not Amanda was adopted. Then, in the dadsona creator, apart from offering several different skintones, there are the three body types to choose from (“regular”, thin, and heavy). These bodies are then mirrored into three other choices where it explicitly says that these are “binder” bodies, giving players the option to play as a trans dad. These options change nothing about the game itself in terms of dialogue or how other characters interact with you, but it allows trans men players the knowledge that they’re playing as someone that may more accurately represent them. Speaking of which, I was delighted and surprised to find out our very own goth dad Damien is trans himself. Confirmed both by one of the game’s writers and by his dialogue in-game where he talks about the difficulty in finding a period appropriate binder, it’s wonderful not only to see this inclusion, but to see that he’s one of the characters most embraced and loved in the Dream Daddy fandom. The writing in his route is especially beautiful, and his being transgender is nowhere near the whole of his character—it’s just a part of who he is, but he’s also a loving dad, a friend to animals, and a fan of Naruto fanfiction. (As a cis woman, my standards are probably less nuanced than that of trans men or trans people, but I haven’t seen any negative discourse floating around about Damien yet.) One final note that makes my heart, specifically, flutter is that none of the fat characters are ever made into jokes because of their weight. I feel blessed.
Reception to the game thus far seems to be overwhelmingly positive; however, many fans have taken issue with Joseph’s route. Joseph is a Christian youth minister with four children, and, oh yeah, he’s also married. His route is less about dealing with his unhappy marriage and more about finding a method of escapism with your dad. So far, his is the only route without a “happy ending”: in the bad ending, he keeps cheating on his wife with you, and in the good ending he breaks up with you in order to focus on fixing his marriage. While in some sense this is realistic, it feels kind of off for a game where the rest of the dads reach some sort of healthier, happier place in their life in their good endings. Many people worry that this is only reinforcing the image that religious gay/mlm men can never find happiness, or that the grasp of internalized homophobia is too difficult to break out of, and I can’t say that they’re wrong. In addition, Joseph’s character as a whole became much more scrutinized after some users datamined the game and found a secret “cult ending” to the game. This ending is not obtainable in the base game, and has been discovered to be a part of a potential Halloween DLC pack, but it doesn’t change the contents. In this ending, your dadsona uncovers that Joseph is actually the head of a cult, and that he’s responsible for the deaths of the spouses of all the other dads in the neighborhood. There is something potentially interesting about this in the same way that other horrible endings are interesting in other dating sims—but fans have expressed their displeasure about this twist, even in a DLC. I can understand: if I’m playing a cute game about dads finding love, I don’t really want all of that to be invalidated (even non-canonically) by such an unthematic dig at whatever happiness the characters were able to find. Hopefully, if there is to be a Halloween DLC later, the Dream Daddy team considers the fans’ criticisms and re-writes that part.
For its price point ($15), Dream Daddy is a robust, emotional dating sim that will bring a smile to your face more than once. The writing is smart and the characters are easy to get attached to. Bonus: you can date all the dads at the same time without them getting mad at you, which was important for someone like me, who likes to do things methodically and in the manner that will save me the most time. Each route will probably take you about an hour to an hour and a half to complete, so the game isn’t especially long either. It’s perfect to play right before going to bed! My only other complaint about Dream Daddy is that some of the mini-games are annoying to play through. The mini golf game, especially, can suck my fucking dick. The game is available on Steam, so make sure to check it out if you can and support the creators! I’ll be here praying for a sequel starring some moms with the option to get Mary out of her bad marriage to Joseph.
…Oh! My favorite routes? It’s hard to pick just one, but I have to stay true to the men I started with. Craig and Mat all the way. Although Damien gives them both a run for their money. And Hugo had that cute scene where he….