The sincerity with which developer Kitfox Video games enters into Boyfriend Dungeon is contagious. It’d in any other case be simple to write down the sport off as a joke, an idea that’s wacky simply to be wacky. I imply, it’s a courting simulator by which you date individuals that may flip into weapons, which might then be used to struggle by means of monstrous dungeons. But it surely’s an idea that’s executed in earnest, with thoughtfulness and care grounding the in any other case implausible world. It was simple to only go along with it. So yeah, the sport is about courting individuals that you simply’ll additionally use as weapons to struggle your insecurities. What of it?
Boyfriend Dungeon begins with the participant character shifting to an enthralling seaside city known as Verona Seaside, after a brief customization stage the place pronouns, look, and identify are all adjustable. The story goes like this: You’re an individual with no courting expertise. Spending the summer season in Verona Seaside, paired along with your matchmaking cousin Jesse, means studying to like. Jesse units you up with the primary date, and issues spring off from there earlier than the monster preventing begins. Within the dunj — brief for dungeon — is the place you be taught that there are some individuals in Verona Seaside that may flip into weapons. And also you simply so occur to be open to wielding them.
Relationship is blended with classes within the dunj, which can be a spot the place you’ll be able to meet new people. You date in spots round Verona Seaside, and complement these dates with classes within the dunj. Taking individuals (weapons!) into the dunj means leveling up a love rating, which is actually an influence rating — that is the way you acquire new skills and improve your stats.
However to get there, you’ve acquired so far. Relationship occurs in a visible novel-esque model, with interactions enjoying out in real-time dialog decisions. In between the dunj and dates, you additionally construct these relationships by means of textual content conversations. There are seven totally different romance choices and thus there are seven totally different weapons that can be utilized to blast your method by means of Boyfriend Dungeon’s two dungeons.
The preliminary idea, of mixing courting and dungeon crawling, felt pure to me: I used to be capable of get to know the oldsters round me and determine which weapon greatest suited my play model. It labored as a conceptualization of courting. Balancing dates, texting, and intimacy all through the sport felt comfy, and by no means overwhelming.
Boyfriend Dungeon’s core narrative lately introduced developer Kitfox a spherical of discourse. One of many first dates you’ll go on is with a man named Eric, a condescending store proprietor that shortly turns to emotional manipulation and stalking. The controversy round Eric is concerning whether or not Kitfox’s content material warning was robust sufficient, and whether or not gamers ought to have been capable of decide out of interactions with him. Kitfox has since up to date its content material warning originally of the sport to raised describe these interactions — however Eric stays an integral a part of the story. And that’s for good cause: Boyfriend Dungeon is a recreation that’s goofy, attractive, and likewise critical. It encompasses quite a lot of the nice issues about courting, but in addition some unlucky realities. Interactions with Eric in Boyfriend Dungeon are genuinely uncomfortable. However they’re depicted in a method that doesn’t let him off the hook for his behaviors. That stated, it is good that Kitfox has up to date the sport with a extra descriptive content material warning, as a result of the narrative does delve into traumatic themes.
Boyfriend Dungeon’s story additionally tackles themes of concern — like concern of change or intimacy. Dungeons, particularly, are themed round these fears, with monsters coming to life as representations of every. (For concern of change, the mall dunj, you’ll struggle stylized previous tech; within the membership, representing concern of intimacy, you struggle cocktails and lips.) Every of the individuals you’ll be able to date have their very own tales and themes that contact on very actual anxieties, every of which is dealt with with care. Kitfox is sending a really honest message about overcoming these fears, and finally utilizing that progress to utterly annihilate Eric.
It labored for me due to the earnestness and care with which Kitfox tells this empowered queer story. It’s not all the time nice to expertise, but it surely’s a narrative that left me feeling glad with the result.
The place Boyfriend Dungeon stumbles, although, is in how shortly the story advances by means of the 2 dungeons and the courting all through. My character went from being awkward and not sure to expertly flirtatious very quickly. I felt like I may immediately woo dates left and proper, with everybody clamoring so far me. That could be a part of the fantasy, however the system made it really easy to hurry by means of courting that a lot of it felt superficial. This all felt compounded by how shortly I used to be capable of breeze by means of the 2 dungeons, as effectively. It felt satisfying within the second to hack and slash my method by means of the degrees, however every of the large fights got here and went with out a lot problem. Higher pacing, I feel, would have helped in making room for deeper relationships with every of Boyfriend Dungeon’s romance choices, as a result of what’s provided is compelling. Plus, extra dungeons!
Regardless of these points, although, I favored the vast majority of Boyfriend Dungeon; I acquired wrapped up within the fantasy of all of it, ending the sport in slightly greater than a single session. I merely didn’t need to put the sport down as a result of I wished to be taught extra in regards to the world’s individuals (and cat — sure, you’ll be able to befriend and struggle with a cat, however not actually fall in love). It could be really easy to create an idea like this that will get misplaced in a way of irony, to make all of it really feel like one massive joke. However the builders at Kitfox approached Boyfriend Dungeon with such real perception within the story, and that’s finally what caught with me after I completed the sport.
Boyfriend Dungeon was launched on Aug. 11 on Nintendo Change, Home windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Collection X. The sport was reviewed on Nintendo Change utilizing a pre-release obtain code offered by Kitfox Video games. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These don’t affect editorial content material, although Vox Media might earn commissions for merchandise bought through affiliate hyperlinks. Yow will discover further details about Polygon’s ethics coverage right here.