Review: Boyfriend Dungeon
By: Fernando Da Costa
Developer: Kitfox Games
Publisher: Kitfox Games
Available on: Nintendo Switch, PC, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One
Review Console: Nintendo Switch OLED
Welcome to the Beach! - Introduction
Throughout the years, we’ve witnessed a massive evolution within our society. People are much more accepting of others and their identified gender or sexuality. As someone who believes in inclusivity, it melts my heart to see a title recognizing and respecting the various types of individuals inhabiting the earth. Now, to pull the curtain back slightly, I have a cousin that’s trans, so I've gained a further appreciation for the topic. I can’t help but feel delighted knowing he won’t face discrimination or exclusion in the world. Boyfriend Dungeon aims to break down barriers and give us a dating sim like no other. There are men, women, and for the first time I can recall, nonbinary partners to romance. Everyone has representation, and this game does an adequate job portraying it. That’s enough chatter, though. How about we get into the nitty-gritty of it all.
Finding Love! - Story Synopsis
Welcome to Verona Beach, the home of sexually active and hot singles. These aren’t your typical humans, though, as every one of them is hiding a secret - they’re weapons. Join your custom-made character as you not only select an identity but also comfortably insert yourself as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. Then, go on dates and find a special someone in a pool of eligible lovers. Oh, did I mention that includes a cat? Because it does. Not in a disgusting sense, thankfully, as that relationship is purely platonic - it’s a kitty, for frig’s sake. Maneuver your way to a successful outing and maybe seal the deal at the end of the night. If not, perhaps a run deep in the dungeons will take the edge off. Will one of them steal your heart, or are you going the way of polygamy?
Do You Love Me?! - Writing
Before I rally down the road of criticism, let me channel my inner Sesame Street and tell you the word of the day - potential. It’s going to be used quite frequently because that’s the best way to describe this game. The majority of the narrative happens through text messages. I like this because it gives a sense of authenticity to this universe. A big highlight is the texts between you and your mom - something you can opt into if you so choose. I’d suggest doing it because it goes far in heightening the whole experience. It also adds a strong touch of realism, thanks to the presence of motherly love. KitFox Games did a stellar job calling upon their inner parent when drafting this script, and their effort wasn’t wasted. What ultimately derails the literary aspect is the awful pacing - it’s done at a breakneck speed.
Before I discuss that, it’s important to note the topics Boyfriend Dungeon covers. Things get heavy quickly and do so very casually. From stalking to emotional manipulation, I suspect a few folks will be upset by this. Hell, one particular character had me downright bothered. Not only does he have a superiority complex, but he ignores any attempts to exhibit displeasure - he’s a creep. In that regard, the game does a fantastic job putting me in the shoes of someone that’s had the unfortunate privilege of going through this. He’d continue even when I stopped returning his messages - big mistake since, aside from his persistent badgering, this brought on a technical hiccup. See, because I stopped answering, once I finished the final dungeon, progression halted. I was perpetually stuck since the last in-game event refused to trigger. He wasn’t texting, but rest assured, a full reset fixes things.
Okay, let’s talk potential because Boyfriend Dungeon’s literary prowess exudes it. Every bachelor and bachelorette is distinct and has individuality. Here’s the thing, however; the overall length of my play session was 7 hours. There’s barely enough time to flesh any of them out. The short duration meant exploring backstories was nigh impossible, meaning I only got a surface level of understanding of their struggles. Sure, the basic consensus got across to me, but it also left much to be desired. Questions were endlessly popping into my head, but answers never followed. What truly sucks is there’s the groundwork for some fascinating beats. With the way the writing isn’t afraid to dive into serious subjects, it’s rather disappointing that there’s no commitment. It glosses over everything and never dares to go into detail. The narrative could do with expanding, but at least, what is here isn’t bad.
Roll Out of the Way! - Gameplay
I regret to inform you that the breakneck progression I mentioned earlier carries well into here. It’s not a traditional negative since the foundation of the actual gameplay is enjoyable - this is a nitpick. As already established, the length of the adventure is short, and the reason for that is mismanagement. Within each dungeon, there are several weapon/lover hybrids to be found. The problem with this is it overwhelms the player with all these new introductions at once. There’s too much to juggle when, realistically, it could be all broken up. That would extend the time spent playing and give enough room to immerse a person and provide a detailed backstory. Look, having a 12 floor level with a new partner every fourth is unnecessary. Moreover, with only two dungeons available, well, you get the picture - it’s crammed tight.
Now, as a Rogue-lite Action/RPG, expect levelling up, equipment to gather, and abilities to learn. The former point is self-explanatory, but I do like the idea of how the second is handled. See, your custom character - Rubi in my case - can be suited up in various outfits and headwear. What’s remarkable is that not only are the cosmetics visually shown but a few offer perks. That’s when a minor gripe of mine emerges, however, since not everything bestows a bonus. You see, all articles of clothing are just that - pieces of clothing. The only thing with that extra something is hats. So, whenever I found blueprints to craft a new shirt or robe, I was indifferent. Playing dress-up is fun, but once you settle on what to wear, it’s no longer as exciting. Any new piece of clothing goes straight to the closet, forever collecting dust.
The third point is tied directly to mingling with your boo. I like how this was implemented because it made going on dates worth it. If I wanted a new skill, I had to go for coffee or support someone with familial problems. Another cool tiny facet is that those same skills correspond with the weapon, or, well, a person in this case, and their personality traits. The misstep here correlates to how the game likes to pile on new characters. Because of that, I went on a lot of dates in a single day. After each one, an ability is unlocked, with a total of six to learn respectively. With such a low number, it didn't take long to blast through. Doing it this way also suffocated character development - there was no room to breathe. Bluntly said, there’s a significant structural problem at the heart of Boyfriend Dungeon.
Alright, there’s a lot of negativity above, so let’s hop to the positive side of things. Now, you probably don’t expect it, but there are meagre morsels of strategy to the dungeon crawling. It’s nothing innovative, but it adds substance, and it does so with the different ways some weapons function. For instance, a dagger is a straight thrust, penetrating any monsters. Because it executes in such a way, I could only kill one at a time unless, that is, several line up. However, a sword has a broader range and can attack in a fan motion. That’s extremely handy because, on the latter floors, it gets ridiculously crowded. If you want a challenge, the dagger does increase difficulty since only one enemy is targeted with every stab. However, thanks to being capable of doubling DPS, that challenge becomes obsolete due to one-hit kills - balance needs to see readjustment.
Listen to the Beat of my Heart! - Sound Design
The musical score is a mixture of both instrumental and vocals. The former is composed of serene beats, while the latter is full of jazzy, chill tracks with a touch of 90’s electrónica. While pleasant to listen to, none did anything to pump my blood. In that regard, Boyfriend Dungeon falls into the trap most fast-paced action titles do - while the quality is there, it doesn’t ignite adrenaline. Still, as a 90’s kid, this was beyond nostalgic, and I was vibing every inch of the way through dungeons. Where the soundtracks truly shone was when I wore bass-enhancing earphones. Every impact felt like it had some serious oomph behind it while the systematic bass drops echoed into my eardrum. I must admit, this was, by far, my favourite aspect, and is why I’m sad this game fails to meet its full potential.
AND THE LOVER’S VERDICT IS…
Boyfriend Dungeon has all the tools but keeps itself from being anything more than a proof of concept. The voice acting is well-done, and there’s genuine fun to have. In fact, I began playing it late one night to get a feel for the gameplay, only to go to bed excited for the next day. Characters are varied, ranging from K-Pop idols to pretty boys. I do, however, think the cast could do with a bit more women as there’s only one. For those that prefer women, there’s not much to choose from. Regardless, I’m ecstatic to see LGBTQ+ representation as it signals progression in the industry. The artwork is gorgeous, too, and the transformation animations are smooth as all hell. Sadly, it suffers an anticlimactic end, and when combined with a rushed narrative, this game lands in a score bracket it doesn’t deserve. Hopefully, the upcoming DLC improves standings.
With an unsatisfying finish, a habit of piling on the available lovers to flirt with, and poor structure, I give Boyfriend Dungeon a 6.
Many thanks to Kitfox Games for providing the code used to write this review.