I was genuinely considering taking a week off from writing this week because it looked like we had another quiet period before the release of Psychonauts 2 (that’s a phrase I’ll never get used to saying). But then Nintendo’s Indie World Showcase went live yesterday afternoon and went “Are you sure about that?” And it led to the release of several games later that afternoon, including Boyfriend Dungeon, which dropped on Game Pass as well as Steam and the Switch eShop. So we’re talking about Boyfriend Dungeon this week.
I was first told about Boyfriend Dungeon by my brother around the time it was first announced four years ago and was looking forward to it based on the lovely absurdity of the premise. A dungeon crawler/dating simulator where you date your weapons. And the weapons are all people who are varying degrees of attractive depending on the player’s orientation (though the game lets you date whomever you choose). The basic premise is that you are visiting your cousin Jesse in Verona Beach, California for the summer, and upon hearing from your mother that you never date, decides to play matchmaker. From there follows a summer of love (romantic or platonic, it’s up to you), dungeon-crawling, and facing your fears through said dungeon crawling. I can safely say that the game treats its subject matter with the depth and absurdity that is needed for a weird premise like this to work. It knows to go for the proper tone when needed and handles its warned content of stalking and emotional manipulation very well (and I love that it goes out of its way to when you first load it up to warn the player about such things. More games need good content warnings). It also knows when to remember that some levity is needed and can get goofy with the jokes it tells. There have been several times when I laughed out loud because the writing is genuinely that funny at times and while my experience with visual novel type experiences begins and ends with the social links in the Persona games from 3 onward, I like what I’ve played of it so far, which based on the events of the story is about halfway through. The six main characters you interact with are all wonderful and if being near the end of a few of these are any indication, they’re all worth going through at least once.
And then there’s the dungeon half of Boyfriend Dungeon. That part of the game, while not as in-depth as the visual novel aspects, it’s an entirely serviceable dungeon romp that serves as the main vector for leveling up your relationship with your weapon of choice. You first meet Issac, who’s an Estoc rapier, but Later gains access to five other weapons/potential suitors including Talwar/Nightclub owner Sunder, dagger/underground artist Valeria (my personal favorite), scythe/moody witch Rowan (and their albino crow named Crowley because of course), Laser saber/K-Popstar Seven, glaive/well-meaning mess of a college student Sawyer and a pair of brass knuckles whose identity I’m not spoiling because the reveal is genuinely excellent. They all have mechanics that differentiate them like Issac being parry focused, Valeria causing enemies to get confused when you dodge past them, to make them feel unique, but they all have one thing in common: murder-stabbing monsters. It follows a loop of dungeon delving, dates, and story events and it’s great stuff. It leads back into your relationship with each character making them stronger and unlocking new abilities, so there’s an incentive to stick to one or branch out. And before anyone asks: I went Valeria because her dodge stunning monsters is a godsend in the later areas.
Overall, I think Boyfriend Dungeon might be added to the games of 2021 list because it manages to take an absurd premise and makes it work incredibly well for me. There’s enough commitment to the bit that I’m going to see it through to the end And I think I actually will, which is rare for me and games these days. Also, it’s just really cute and nice. Give it a go if you want a game that’s short and to the point (pun fully intended).