Boyfriend Dungeon Review: Dungeon Crawling and Dating, the Mash-up You Never Knew You Needed
I’ve had my eye on Boyfriend Dungeon from Kitfox Games for quite some time, and I quite literally jumped at the chance to review this quirky game. A dungeon-crawling dating sim? It’s like someone took some of my favorite elements from the more recent Persona games and thought, “You know what, this should be its own game.” So is Boyfriend Dungeon worth a second date?
Get Your Mind Out of the Gutter (Or Don’t)
Boyfriend Dungeon’s storyline is… interesting, to say the least. Players take on the role of the protagonist, and, much like Persona, your character remains largely silent, save for small responses here and there to other characters in the game. You’ve just moved to Verona Beach, a picturesque beach town that, for some reason or another, has become home to dungeons that can be explored. Since the dating scene is always looking for the next hot thing to spice things up, it’s pretty popular to hit up a dungeon (or “dunj”) instead of just going out for coffee or dinner. But wait, a dunj has got to be pretty dangerous, right? Well, that’s where your date comes in. See, some people have the bizarre ability to transform themselves into weapons. Those who aren’t able to transform are, in turn, wielders. So, the wielders and the weapons pair up to dive deep into the mysteries of each dunj.
And so enters you. A wielder with no experience with weapons or people. You’ve never even been on a date, but thankfully, your helpful cousin Jesse is eager to be your wingman. He even sets you up on your very first date! Sure, that date ends up being with Eric (a character who sparked a bit of controversy amongst some players, but more on that later), but he really helps you get the confidence to start dating. Of course, being a dating sim, you are quickly inundated with dating options. You’ll be given the option to romance a delightfully wide range of characters, such as Isaac, who also happens to be an estoc. Or Sunder, the talwar. Or, my personal favorite, Rowan, the scythe. To name just a few. Boyfriend Dungeon gives you a nice variety, with male, female, and non-binary characters to date and explore the dunj with.
A Surprisingly Deep Dating Pool
Each character is wonderfully fleshed out. They’re complex, they have secrets, they have histories, they have family drama. And Boyfriend Dungeon doesn’t shy away from some difficult subject matter. For instance, Seven, the lasersabre who is in a K-Pop band known as Blade Generation, struggles with severe depression. Isaac has a controlling, manipulative, overbearing father. Rowan, the non-binary witch, is reeling from the loss of a close loved one. It’s incredible watching these characters grow and evolve alongside you. You’ll do a lot of communicating via text, and each character even has their own distinctive texting style, which I thought was a really nice touch. And then, of course, there’s Eric.
Hoo boy. Eric. There is something deeply wrong with Eric, and he’s clearly unwell. I can’t really talk about the story of Boyfriend Dungeon without touching on the controversy surrounding Eric. I’ll be blunt: he’s a total creep. And a jerk. And an all-around awful human being. Speaking personally, I am intimately familiar with guys like Eric, and I get the deep-seated unease he instills in people. But the game is upfront with its warning that some of the themes will be dark and difficult.
As deeply uncomfortable as Eric made me, as much as he made my skin crawl, he is, unfortunately, based on the very real That Guy. We all know That Guy: the one who doesn’t get that no means no; the one who can’t be let down no matter how nice or firm you are about it; the one who oversteps boundaries to the point of constituting possible danger. If the presence of Eric is simply too much for you (and that’s really okay if it is), then Boyfriend Dungeon will not be the game for you. I also think that it’s completely legitimate to have him in this game, and by asking to have an option enabled that cuts him out is asking for a game that simply doesn’t exist. For better or worse, Eric is woven into the fabric of this game, and there’s no getting around that.
Conquer the Dunj, and You’ll Conquer Your Fears
Gameplay in Boyfriend Dungeon is basically split into two parts: dating, and dungeon crawling. Each element is intimately tied to the other. In order to go on a date, you’ll need to level up your relationship with each weapon, and this is done by exploring the dunj and defeating enemies. The deeper you get on any given run, the more experience you’ll gain, both for yourself and for your relationship with the weapon you chose to wield. Once you max out a relationship level, that weapon/person will text you to set up a new date, which will progress that character’s story.
For a game called “Boyfriend Dungeon” I really thought there’d be more dungeons. There are only a few dungeons in the game, and while they have randomly generated floors (and a fair number of floors in each), they start to feel a bit monotonous after a while. In fact, I think the dungeon crawling aspect is the game’s weakest area. While I really liked that each dungeon is based off your character’s fears, and part of exploring it is figuring out what those fears are, they just weren’t complex enough to be all that engaging. The floors all start to blend together, and since none of the floors are ever particularly large, it all just bleeds together.
Combat is also fairly basic, though it never really felt boring to me. You have two basic attacks: light and heavy. Light attacks are faster, but do less damage, whereas heavy attacks are typically slower, but deal greater damage. You can chain most combinations of basic attacks and heavy attacks into a three-hit combo. While this sounds simple in practice, it’s more engaging in action. Each weapon has its own unique combat style, and as you level them up, they’ll gain new abilities. For instance, Rowan, the scythe, has a heavy attack that creates a small black hole that sucks enemies in and traps them for a few seconds. As you level up, you can choose to have the black hole cause continual damage while active, or you can have it blow up to cause heavy damage. Or Seven, the lasersabre, will send bolts of electricity at nearby enemies when completing a combo attack. You also have the ability to roll, which can help you dodge enemies, though honestly, the enemies never felt unreasonably strong or difficult.
An Awesome, Unique, Slightly Flawed Experience
Boyfriend Dungeon is a good example of a great, unique game that’s an awesome experience in spite of its flaws. It’s by no means a perfect game. Boyfriend Dungeon has incredible character development, tackles difficult subject matter, has absolutely gorgeous artwork and a killer soundtrack, and is more than addicting enough to get you going back for more and more. And that’s in spite of the lackluster, repetitive, and limited dungeon crawling options available to you. It’s quite unlike any game I’ve ever played, in the best of ways.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: Switch (reviewed), PC, Xbox One; Publisher: Kitfox Games; Developer: Kitfox Games; Players: 1; Released: August 11th, 2021; MSRP: $19.99.
Editor’s note: This review is based on a retail copy of Boyfriend Dungeon provided by the publisher.