By Jessica Clifford-Jones | Review Editor
It’s unique and bizarre concept is that the player character has to fight through dungeons using sentient weapons (humans – and animals, in one instance– that can transform into weapons) who you can level up by developing your relationship with them outside of combat. The game alternates between visual novel-style scenes with gorgeous art (as well as several stunning animated sequences) and isometric roguelite dungeon levels.
The story follows the player character, whose name, appearance, and gender are determined and can be changed by the player, who’s staying at their cousin’s apartment for the summer at Verona Beach. Your cousin encourages you to go on dates and suggests that a way to meet people is to try teaming up with shapeshifting weapon-humans to fight through ‘dungeons’.
This strange urban fantasy setting doesn’t take itself seriously or explain itself all that much, which I found a strength rather than a weakness. The game asks you to go along with its wacky premise, rather than think about it too deeply. The plot consists of pursuing romances or friendships, depending on the player’s choices, fighting through the dungeons, and dealing with your irritating stalker Eric, who is the closest the game has to a proper antagonist. If you are someone who prefers your game to be plot-heavy and complex, then Boyfriend Dungeon is not for you. It’s a simple, charming, feel-good game you can beat in an afternoon but still has some replayability due to the many routes.
Early after its release, Boyfriend Dungeon faced backlash. At the beginning of the game, it warns the player that it ‘may include references to unwanted advances, stalking, and other forms of emotional manipulation.’ This led many players to believe that rather than a depiction of aforementioned themes, they would simply be referenced in dialogue. However, this wasn’t the case, as these themes are actually a significant part of the plot. The creators apologised and changed the content warning to be more specific, but the discussion continued online. Some pushed for an option to opt out of the triggering content. Others pointed it’s unfair to the developers to expect them to change their story because it explores some dark themes. Personally, I believe that the developers were right to update the content warning to be more specific, as the original warning was misleading, but shouldn’t be pushed into making significant changes to their story to cater to people who are uncomfortable with it.
While this controversy died down eventually, it’s a shame it overshadowed the game itself, because it’s an absolute delight. With its colourful art design, gorgeous soundtrack, and enjoyably varied gameplay (not only is it a dating sim and a dungeon crawler, it also has crafting features and an unlockable arcade minigame!), it’s an all-round wonderful experience. My main complaint is that there isn’t more, as the game feels like it’s over far too quick. Luckily, the creators are going to add more to it in an upcoming update, including two new weapons/romances. I’m personally hoping for more dungeons as well, as there’s only two in the game so far and, while fun and fairly substantial, it feels as if there should be more.
Even with its short length, Boyfriend Dungeon is a quirky, fun and all-round enjoyable game well worth playing, especially since there is more to look forward to!