Dream Daddy is a cute game about cute dads that’s marred by some really uncute mini games.
Gita Jackson: I’m here with Chloe Spencer, Kotaku’s summer intern, to talk about Dream Daddy—more specifically, the horrible, awful, no good mini games. Chloe, you’re a big fan of the game, right?
Chloe Spencer: Big fan, yeah! Damien is one of my favorites. His route has just the sweetest ending. Haven’t gotten to Hugo yet, but I plan on doing that soon.
Gita: I’ve honestly just played Damien and Mat’s routes. I haven’t gotten to the end of Damien’s yet, but he’s just the sweetest character.
Chloe: He really is. He’s one of the nicest dads and, unlike Brian, doesn’t try to best anyone. The nicest part about his character is that he’s just doing the best he can. Brian is probably the dad I like the least. Maybe because he has one of the mini games that I like the least, haha.
Gita: Tell me about Brian’s mini game. It’s mini golf, right?
Chloe: Yep! It’s a mini golf game, and you have to aim the ball and shoot it to score. You can get an achievement for getting 18 hole in ones. But a lot of fans, from what I’ve seen on the Steam page and other forums, have been complaining that it’s impossible to get the achievement. And honestly, it is so hard. My computer was lagging when I played the game, so almost everything I shot was just off by barely a few inches.
Gita: That sounds like a nightmare.
Chloe: I don’t even like golf, and the mini game forces you to play it. I guess that’s part of being a Dad? Why isn’t there a History Channel trivia game? I’d be good at that.
Gita: I know last night, one of the writers of the game, Vernon Shaw, was streaming trying to get you get for getting a hole in one for all 18 holes. It took him twenty minutes.
Chloe: Wow. Did he have any tips or advice to give to players on getting the achievement?
Gita: Mostly it looked like he was in pain.
Chloe: Haha! I’ll bet. That mini game is so challenging. Mat’s mini game at the concert is another one that I have to beat. I got down to seven seconds left to go, and lost.
Gita: Mat’s mini game is so frustrating. In that game, you have to lead your character through a crowd of people to go find Mat at a crowded concert venue. You also get to listen to “DVP” by the real-life band PUP, which is a great song. But it’s simply impossible to win it. I have never won it. And like, I get that these games are here to spice up the visual novel format. But they feel really out of place, and they have an impact on how well you do on dates.
Chloe: Yes! And that’s the worst part. There are really difficult mini games with wonky controls, and ultimately they can impact my ending. So rather than contributing to my experience of having fun in the game, I just feel more frustrated. And then when I didn’t end up with Mat, I was soul-crushingly sad. How did you do on Damien’s mini game, with putting the gargoyle back together?
Gita: The first two pieces of the gargoyle were easy. But the last part of it was unexpectedly so hard! And as you said, the controls in all these games are really wonky. Rotating the pieces was as simple as moving the mouse. But to change the orientation I had to click somewhere, which is also how you put the piece down. So the last piece took me fucking ages!
Chloe: I was getting right down to the last few seconds, and when I finally put it together I’m pretty sure I was sweating. I was in total panic mode. Sometimes I don’t even know when there’s going to be a mini game. Damien has gargoyles in his garden, and the player character just tumbles into the gargoyle, and I was kind of like, “Whoops.” Then all of a sudden the game starts, and you have to put the gargoyle back together, and I was like, “Wait, what? But that’s not how you put a broken statue back together!” What’s going to stop it from falling over later anyway?
Gita: You just kinda rest the pieces on top of each other. Damien’s gonna notice.
Gita: Instead of adding depth to the game, the mini games really take something away. I love visual novels, and I’ve never clamored for them to be more “game-y,” you know? It’s enough to play through a well-written branching narrative.
Chloe: I definitely feel like the narrative of Dream Daddy is strong enough to stand on its own without the mini games. I don’t exactly know the purpose behind the mini games—if they are supposed to add to my experience, add an extra challenge, or appeal to people who normally don’t play visual novels.
Gita: The most cynical part of me believes it’s the last of those three. But in my personal experience, I’ve found that the concept of the game is so appealing to people who don’t like visual novels or don’t even play games.
Chloe: A great part about Dream Daddy is that by dating the other dads, you learn more about the other characters, like Mary, and about the neighborhood. But I wonder if anyone played through Mat’s route and was just really turned off by the idea of playing the mini games in other routes. I feel like at the very least, they make me less excited to play through another story. Because they just make me think, “How will I end up alone this time? Losing at golf? Or failing to put a gargoyle back together?”
Gita: Dream Daddy is a good game. I really think it is. But visual novels are a fairly defined form, and they didn’t need to muck up a good thing.
Chloe: I completely agree. The mini games are unnecessary.
Gita: Damien, however? Very necessary.