As I write this during a pandemic-induced lockdown, I am reminded that this time last lockdown I was reviewing Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Rescue Team DX. Eighteen months later, I’m reviewing another dungeon themed game on Switch – Kitfox Games’ Boyfriend Dungeon.
Don’t let the clickbait title of Boyfriend Dungeon give you the wrong idea. Ain’t nothing sinister here. Just your standard roguelike dungeon-crawler that doubles as a dating-sim visual novel where your weapons are the dates.
Like I said, standard stuff.
After a quick character creation scene where you can choose your looks, pronouns, and drink of choice, your summer of love at Verona Beach begins. However, this isn’t a normal Tinder dating scene, as everyone at Verona Beach is either able to transform into a blade or wield one.
Naturally, the hottest thing to do in town is for swords and wielders to explore the local dungeon (“dunj”) together in a rogue-like dungeon-crawling format.
Don’t think too deeply about this – Boyfriend Dungeon certainly doesn’t.
As mentioned, Boyfriend Dungeon doubles as a dating sim with seven different weapons to date. Your relationship meter increases by fighting together in the dunj and buying affection with expensive gifts. If you’ve ever played Dream Daddy or Best friends Forever, you’ll be familiar with the visual novel date format where you can enjoy the fruits of your dunj-delving, gift-giving labour.
Thankfully “Boyfriend Dungeon” is a misnomer in that a girlfriend and two non-binary cuties are in the Verona Beach dating pool. Most characters are openly comfortable with polyamory, asexuality, or keeping things platonic.
Happened so fast
The combat in Boyfriend Dungeon doesn’t take too long to figure out, with each weapon (Date? Weapon? What’s the polite terminology here?) a different riff on the same basic theme. Some are quick, some hit hard, some are great at handling trash mobs. You know, like real dating. The laser sabre was both my favourite playstyle and my favourite boy, so I was happy.
The dungeons themselves are both quirky and thematically apt. The wielder’s insecurities take the form of anthropomorphic monsters, allowing your character to literally fight their fears.
Now if only I could slice up my student-loan with a sabre…
The Boyfriend Dungeon package is wrapped up in some very slick UI that’s easy to use and has lovely personal touches. For example, you can pick your drink of choice and your healing potions will show up in the world as that drink.
The full soundtrack by Marskye and Madeleine McQueen is available on Spotify, and even if you don’t end up picking up the game, I recommend you have a listen. They’re light, trendy bops that both capture the rush of summer hook ups with an underlying emotional depth. Seriously, they’re solid tunes.
I met a girl crazy for me
Many dating sims have an overlaying theme tying together potential dating partners; groups of dads, groups of pet-owners, groups of gender-bending fairy-tale characters. But in Boyfriend Dungeon? I couldn’t pick it. Beyond all being able to turn into weapons, of course. In human form they vary as wildly as a university student, to a witch, to a K-Pop star.
The thematic consistency in Boyfriend Dungeon comes instead from the experience of putting yourself out there and meeting new people. Maybe you’ll be rejected; maybe you’ll meet someone who hurts you. Boyfriend Dungeon asks you to accept these risks in the hope that you’ll meet someone who makes it all worth it.
While I enjoyed the story and the maturity displayed, I would have loved for it to be longer. The runtime is around 6 to 8 hours, meaning some players will be able to play through the entire game in a single day if they’re feeling so inclined. Cut the time down even further if you’ve just come off the back of a Hades binge – you’ll find this combat a breeze. When paired with the fact that there are only two dungeons in town, I couldn’t help but feel like summer in Verona Beach finished just as I was getting into the swing of it.
Met a boy cute as can be
Slight spoiler warning, but any discussion of Boyfriend Dungeon will inevitably touch upon the discourse surrounding its villain and his stalker behaviour. To summarise, the developer added a content warning after feedback that the stalking plot was triggering for some players. After the warning was added, a vocal minority requested that players have the option of choosing not to engage in the stalking plot at all. This topic has been discussed widely and extensively elsewhere so I won’t do a deep dive, but just to say that while the depiction of trauma shouldn’t be fetishized, it also shouldn’t be sanitised. LGBTIA+ media shouldn’t be held to an impossible standard beyond what other media is held to.
Boyfriend Dungeon is a short but lovingly crafted ode to putting yourself out there and life-changing summer flings. I sincerely hope that Boyfriend Dungeon is remembered not for the discourse, but for the pairing of two wildly different game genres and making it work.
And dating weapons. That concept is wild, yo.