My Thoughts on 'Dream Daddy' (2017)
A visual novel that sounds like a joke, but is really something special in an evolving entertainment medium.
It has been well over a year since I last played this wonderful little game, and I still remember everything that made it so endearing to play with one of my closest friends who recommended it to and bought for me as a birthday gift. I'm forever grateful that he did (as a side note, he's an artist, and the beautiful art style in this game is coincidently so similar to his! Check out his page to see what I mean).
Developed and published by the Game Grumps in 2017, the visual novel (VN) Dream Daddy became something of an Internet phenomenon with its heartwarming characters (mostly, anyway—Joseph isn't nearly as rosy as he dresses), let's play-worthy hilarity, and progressive themes that for once don't feel contrived nor agenda-driven.
We don't often see very many games feature same-sex romances, and when they do, the very concept is either fetishized by Tumblr dwellers or relegated to all-too-familiar stereotyping practices. Meanwhile, Dream Daddy normalizes homosexual (or possibly either demisexual or pansexual) relationships in the sense that nobody explicitly acknowledges sexual orientation and simply accepts peoples' lifestyle choices without drawing attention to the obvious. If anything, the only thing that was ever made obvious were the dad jokes (and I must admit I'm a fan of them, so I'm not complaining).
Most importantly, the relationships themselves are handled maturely and tastefully, as any in media should be. Not once did I feel there was any sort of fanservice or focus away from developing believable dynamics that can be incredibly cute at the same time. Nothing felt awkward or out-of-place, and considering this is a story about (sexually fluid) divorced dads with children, it's amazing to see such a specific demographic get the attention and representation it deserves in consumable media.
I appreciated the many different topics tackled within these relationships. From facing interpersonal challenges to learning to put aside differences, I experienced a natural progression from genuine friendship to budding romance between these characters who are always optimistic about the future, no matter where they end up. You'd think the writing would be overly mushy, but that is certainly not the case here.
Particularly since romantic love isn't the only focus in this game. It is about dads after all, and it's only expected that familial relations would receive a ton of recognition as well. My favorite aspect of the VN is easily the relationship your character has with his daughter, Amanda. It has everything every parent will relate to, such as: learning something from and supporting one another, overcoming conflict, and enjoying mutual interests while also teasing each other's quirks.
These experiences are part of what makes every parent-child relationship so valuable and exciting, and the fact that maintaining a good relationship with Amanda is just as important as romancing one of the eligible bachelors adds layers to a simple but nonetheless welcomed premise. In all honesty, this entire game could have been just some more cringe-inducing fanfiction bait if the thought wasn't put into it. Game Grumps didn't have to craft meaningful narratives about romance and family in a largely comedic game, but they did.
On the surface, the dads themselves seem like they'd each have their one particular personality trait and that's it. While they're definitely consistent in their unique mannerisms, there's more to them than meets the eye. Damien, my favorite, is a Victorian-era enthusiast who, instead of being intimidating and snobby, is really just quaint and gentle. Robert is an intellectual bad boy with a passion for quality cinema (and an equally gorgeous daughter). Hugo is a literature buff who unexpectedly enjoys a good wrestling match. Matt is a cool, unsung musician with hidden pain. Craig is a fitness junkie with a lot on his plate at home. Brian is super competitive but has a heart of gold. And Joseph....we don't speak about Joseph.
It's interesting how each one has different types of relationships with their sons and/or daughters. Regardless of their situation, some get along, some don't, and the way in which your character and Amanda cement themselves into their lives change them in largely impactful ways.
There are also other memorable characters, such as Joseph's morally ambiguous wife Mary and the endlessly riff-able Spinmaster Quinn. I always enjoy interactions with characters outside of the main cast that color the world they're in that much more.
If there's one thing I would change about the game, it would be the majority of the mini-games. I think at least one of them is made purposely impossible to play for laughs, but many of the others are so stressful due to their poor controls.
But I nevertheless didn't allow them to ruin my fun. Dream Daddy is completely worth the 20 or so bucks on Steam; I know I want to revisit it sometime soon.