The title of being my most disappointing game of the year is a special title reserved not always for games that are irredeemably awful (though usually, they aren’t good either) but games that had every reason in the world to be great yet they’re just…not. This can mean games that failed especially hard living up to their hype, games that severely lack the same quality as other games made by the devs or other games in their series, games that had incredible ideas that failed in execution, but above all, it means games that simply weren’t able to live up to the expectations they’d set forth. In 2016, I gave this unique title to an adventure game called Oxenfree.
And for 2017, I think there is no game more deserving of this title than Vernon Shaw and Leighton Gray’s own Dream Daddy.
I wrestled hard with the idea of Marvel vs Capcom Infinite getting this title instead until I remembered the first time images for Infinite were released it was immediately clear this game wouldn’t be good, so going into its release my expectations were already pretty low.Plus, when it comes to fighting games, I’m more of a Skullgirls/Guilty Gear/Street Fighter/Smash fan anyways. Doki Doki Literature Club was in a similar position–it was certainly a game that disappointed me tremendously, but I also went into it with absolutely no expectations for it. Dream Daddy, on the other hand, I was excited about. The trailer was great, the marketing was fun, the Game Grumps were involved in it. Moreover, it’s a dating sim and I, for one, have been nothing if not transparent in my love of visual novels and dating sims. Only a year ago, the highly anticipated Asagao Academy had been released and that dating sim turned out to be incredible–it must be a sign that YouTuber backed dating sims have a lot of potential. Surely Dream Daddy, which had been funded and advertised by the Game Grumps (note: I’m not saying made because it wasn’t made by the Grumps. It was made by Vernon Shaw and Leighton Gray. Apparently, a lot of people struggle to remember this) would be no different, right?
I reviewed this game on EliteGamer shortly after it came out, so if you want to hear my thoughts on it at length, you can read the article. To sum it up, my dislike for Dream Daddy stems from 3 things:
1. It lacks so many core visual novel traits (EX: branching paths, bad/different endings, character routes that feel like more than just a prologue or a teaser for their actual story) that it simply feels like a horrifically incomplete game in general.
2. Visibly more effort was put into writing the (admittedly wonderful) characters than the story itself, and the story suffers greatly for that.
3.It’s always having an identity crisis–it’s a game that can never seem to choose between being a joke dating sim or a serious narrative. It can never commit to being one or the other, and it meshes the two in such a polarizing and messy way that it makes the whole game feel tonally awkward.
Ultimately, I scored it a 6/10 on the basis that at least the characters were good (after all, characters are equally important as story in a dating sim), the art was certainly great, it’s a game that clearly means well, it’s technically sound for the most part, the idea of a dad dating sim is completely unique and very original, and mostly because it’s hysterical in the fleeting moments that it decides to be a joke dating sim before inevitably trying (failing) to be serious 30 seconds later. Dream Daddy wasn’t an awful game to me, despite what this article might make you think. It was just a game that had overwhelming potential that could’ve been realized if the game were only longer and/or felt more like a real visual novel with branching paths and bad endings that were not only actually bad, but weren’t literally the same ending copy/pasted just with a different dad each time (which, by the way, only furthered my calling this game incomplete). Dream Daddy was so close to being fantastic. It could’ve easily been fantastic. But because there seemed to be more focus on getting this game out soon as opposed to getting it out well, all that potential it was overflowing with became lost.
Nothing bugs me more than when a game is within a hair’s width of easily obtainable greatness that it just seems to blatantly ignore, and such is the case with Dream Daddy. Dream Daddy could be much better if only the branching paths felt more distinct and then were either longer or had better closure. Dream Daddy could be much better if it only had endings that weren’t just satisfying, but weren’t all literally the exact same thing word-for-word just with a different love interest each time. Dream Daddy could be much better if it would just make up its mind whether it wants to be a joke dating sim or a serious narrative and then commit to that tone. But alas, it didn’t. That’s the other main reason why Dream Daddy, to me, is leagues more disappointing than the likes of Marvel vs Capcom Infinite and Doki Doki Literature Club: Because Dream Daddy was so close to being great, but it squandered every single one of the countless opportunities it had. It’s really frustrating (for me, at least) to play a game and notice it just barely making all the wrong decisions over and over again. It’s distracting. It’s irritating. But more than anything, it’s disappointing.
Dream Daddy may not be the train wreck Marvel vs Capcom Infinite and Doki Doki Literature Club were, but the waves of disappointment it brought me from its insistence on making countless bad decisions are second to none from this year. Although Dream Daddy won’t be my go-to choice for worst game–or even worst visual novel–from 2017, it’ll be far, far away from my bests as well. It’s not a dating sim I’d readily recommend in general unless you’re just looking for unique concepts or something that’ll make you laugh from time to time–and even if you were looking for such dating sims, I can still think of plenty more titles I’d sooner recommend (Hatoful Boyfriend, Sweet Fuse, Asagao Academy, and Katawa Shoujo to name a few). Dream Daddy had so much potential to be great–it could’ve been one of the best visual novels or even best indie games in general to come out of the juggernaut of amazing game releases that’s been 2017. Alas, ultimately that same overflowing potential ended up more wasted than Robert. That’s why Dream Daddy is my choice for the most disappointing game of 2017.