Boyfriend Dungeon Review (Switch)
Release Date: August 11, 2021
File Size: 1.9 GB
Publisher: Kitfox Games
Developer: Kitfox Games
Click here to view on the Nintendo eShop.
There are some games you wait your entire life to play. Some games that awaken a primal urge within you, a sign that, despite your greatest efforts to control yourself, you cannot help but be… horny. Unabashedly so.
When I said, just two sentences ago, that there are “some games you wait your entire life to play,” I lied. The only game you wait your entire life to play is Boyfriend Dungeon. And once you have played it, you will never be the same.
…Let’s review it, shall we?
Boyfriend Dungeon is a roguelite dungeon crawler blended with a visual novel dating simulator. While the two genres couldn’t be more different, the actions you take while dungeon-diving directly factor into how your relationships progress. These two gameplay styles are fairly straightforward to explain, so we’ll start with the former.
When in dungeons- cheekily referred to as “dunj” by the hip characters of Verona Beach- you will have a weapon equipped that largely alters your playstyle. In fairly standard action RPG fare, you have both a light and heavy attack mapped to Y and X, the first of which you can chain into the second. The combos for these two attack types are short and end in “finishers,” which can often possess special effects. You have a dodge roll mapped to the B button, and your quick healing and zine attack- a magic spell that can be crafted and equipped- are mapped to both the L/ZL and R/ZR buttons, respectively. You will take on hordes of enemies embodying the fears of your playable character, which result in quirky designs such as bat-like VHS tapes, tottering cocktail glasses, and more. The dunj end in boss battles and have many hidden features, as well as loot boxes filled with recipes for either equipment or gifts for your weapons.
See, the weapons you wield while in the dunj are actually human/weapon hybrids. Well, that’s not entirely true- one is a cat. But after defeating a certain amount of enemies, descending a number of floors, and visiting special locations within the dunj, your Love level will max out with your equipped weapon, which signifies they are ready to go on another date with you. You can either keep chopping until you drop in the dunj or take a conveniently-placed elevator back up to the surface, where you can craft new gifts and equipment at home, modify your look, or check your text messages. Your friends will shoot you messages and tell you where to meet, which will begin new date scenarios.
Depending on what dialogue selections you make and the selection of the right gifts, you can get a head-start on gaining experience for your next Love level upon meeting with your date. They will almost immediately level up, unlocking a new combat ability, but knowing your date’s personality and preferences will boost their affection towards you. Some of the dialogue options in these date sequences are flirty, some are insecure, and most-respectably, some are platonic, allowing the player to take a strictly monogamous route, should they feel so inclined. However, the game will not punish you for making out with as many weapons as possible- save the cat, perhaps- so you need not worry about jeopardizing your chances with any potential lovers.
Narrative and Aesthetics
Boyfriend Dungeon starts with some once-again respectable content warnings, covering topics that make perfect sense for a game about dating, but might still catch some people off-guard. Many of the character interactions here are extremely honest, not only from the perspective of the weapons you date, but also from the playable character, an individual who has never dated before and must learn the ropes via the relationships fostered at Verona Beach. You will discuss consent, insecurity, future plans, rebellion, listlessness, and more with each of your partners, though these topics are contained to a particular narrative, helping to diversify the cast.
While some characters have additional supernatural traits atop being part-weapon, others are glamorous in their own way: take Seven, for example, a member of a K-Pop boy band whose identity is being encroached upon by another group member. Not all of the narratives threads are so fanciful: Sawyer is just a struggling college student, whose non-binary identity and general anxieties play into your budding friendship, while Pocket is just a cat attempting to stand up to another stray. Either way, the healthy range of topics covered is both tasteful and extremely enjoyable due to the quality of the writing.
Boyfriend Dungeon’s visuals present a vibrant and clean isometric world while exploring the dunj, though these colors will become more muted and grimy as you descend deeper and confront your personal demons. The player avatar is highly customizable in a variety of clothing options, and weapon attacks are flashy and punchy in order to keep up with the countless monsters you’ll face in the depths. However, this is only half of the game, as you’ll also attend a number of dates in a more traditional visual-novel setting. The colors here are equally lovely and lush, but the true star of the show are the gorgeous 2D portraits of your dates. While they cycle through a fairly limited set of emotions, there are several outfit changes across the cast, and the overall level of detail is impressive. When meeting new characters, you’ll get a sampling of their voice through a number of lines, but the entire game is not voice-acted. Either way, the voice cast does a great job at coming across as tantalizing with their acting.
It would be negligent of me not to mention the excellent soundtrack that accompanies these visuals, composed by Marskye and featuring vocals by Madeleine McQueen. The game has a soothing, vapor-esque OST with many themes possessing sexy, listless lyrics delivered via McQueen’s smoky voice, fitting the dating theme perfectly. The dunj benefits from the instrumentation, resulting in a crawling experience that feels hypnotic and addictive. The dunj also features a number of tracks as the player descends deeper, giving a satisfying and audible sense of progression.
Impressions and Conclusion
Boyfriend Dungeon was a sleeper launch after the Indie World presentation that aired on August 11th, 2021, which means that it might be somewhat surprising or troubling that this review was penned the day after. The only indication one should take from this is that the game is extremely addictive and rather unfortunately short. This is due to some quality of life and game design features that, while welcome, hurt the game’s longevity, though in no way detract from its charms.
As of writing, there are only two dungeons in the game, and though they are both long and feature escalating challenges in the form of enemies, the ability to jump to any floor possessing an elevator means that you don’t have to start from scratch and plunge the way most roguelites punishingly do. Similarly, the health system allows the player to carry up to three consumable potions, but they also can pick up healing items in the dunj and benefit from their effects. The fact that the dunj and most boss battles are littered with healing items means that you can delve deep into these locations with relatively low risk. However, there will come a point where a lengthy run will end due to scaling enemy damage.
Another intuitive system is that of weapons changing from floor to floor. While many games would likely have players start with and commit to a loadout, Boyfriend Dungeon allows players to switch weapons when they progress to another floor of the dunj. This is hugely beneficial to maxing out the Love level of all of your weapons, as they will stop gaining experience at a certain point during their current level and cannot gain more until you go on another date with them. This is further circumvented by a gift that your first Level 6 date offers you, but that is also towards the end of the game’s extremely compelling central narrative, meaning it’s primarily used for post-game grinding. At every turn, the developers at Kitfox seem to simply want players to be able to experience all the content they have put together, save for a few tantalizing clues towards future DLC.
This means the overall experience can clock in at around eight hours, which is hardly a bad thing. But because of the compounding quality of life features, it sometimes feels as if you are playing the game faster than the developers can keep up. While weapons are unlocked at a fairly steady clip and all scale to your current Wielder Level, it never feels like any of them drag behind one another in power or utility, so swapping between them is truly only a risk of your personal comfort with their play style. There are several secrets and some loot to uncover in both of the game’s dungeons, you might end up crafting some gifts that you never use simply because you’re unsure of your date’s preferences. The material grind becomes more focused on cosmetic decisions rather than gifts as a result.
Still, I can’t say I didn’t enjoy my time with Boyfriend Dungeon. It was extremely empowering to romance so many individuals without abandon or consequence, and though I started playing with an intent to act as a manipulative individual with many weapons in my pockets, I quickly became enraptured by the story the game itself wishes to communicate. The ability to switch gears and make relationships strictly platonic is a welcome feature, especially if you have some moral reservations about having so many lovers. At the same time, several characters express polyamorous tendencies, which is just as valid, if not more complex than the scenarios the game offers. Atop this, the dungeon crawl was extremely fluid and addictive, but the brevity of the experience felt as if the mechanics for enemies, hazards, and challenges were not given enough time to develop. If the game were to include some sort of endless mode, additional secrets, or more loot options, I feel it might come across as a more complete package.
It is always easy to ask for more, however, and more difficult to face the reality of what a game already has. I feel the game works best when it truly offers a blend of dungeon crawling and dating. The moments where you take your weapon to a location within a dunj and hear their thoughts on a subject before blowing their mind with a perfect gift are delightful. The overarching narrative, which results in a very smart and strange twist (that begs for a romance option of its own! Please, Kitfox?), is charming and fun, and synchronizes with your strongest Love level throughout gameplay to offer a very strong narrative through-line. Ultimately, in an age where some roguelikes and even roguelites sometimes feel unfairly bloated, Boyfriend Dungeon offers a concise package that gives the player exactly what they want. Or at least, it gave me what I wanted- weapon dates.