Boyfriend Dungeon is a game that I beat earlier this year. In recent years, I’ve seen the release of many dating simulation games (or dating sims), but never really thought of it as a genre for me. When I first heard of and saw some clips from Boyfriend Dungeon, I thought ‘that looks neat. Oh, it’s a dating sim, so probably not for me.’ As it turned out, I was wrong.
It wasn’t until later on, a bit after the game released that I watched some gameplay on Twitch one night. At the time, I was in the middle of reading Felicia Day’s new book Embrace Your Weird: Face your Fears and Unleash Creativity, and had recently discovered her Twitch channel. I ended up watching a few minutes of her playing Boyfriend Dungeon and thought, ‘Oh, this looks really cool.’ This is when I learned about the dungeon crawling part of Boyfriend Dungeon.
What got me interested was that this game mixes one genre that I already know I am a big fan of — Dungeon Crawler — with one that I’m not too familiar with — Dating Sim. When blended together, these two genres made a unique and special experience, Boyfriend Dungeon.
What is it?
In Boyfriend Dungeon, you get to create your own character: choosing a name, gender, some visual details and even pronouns. I created elsie, a female (she/her). The story begins with elsie moving to Verona Beach for the summer, and the one person she knows in town is her cousin, Jesse. She even gets to live in his old apartment while in town.
The point of the game is to meet all possible suitors, and take them on “dates” into the “dunj” (or dungeon), where they transform into weapons as you fight off hordes of living machines and objects. In between dates, you get to chat with different suitors (via text message and in-person). Cousin Jesse sort of works as your unofficial matchmaker.
I’ve played many dungeon crawlers in my gaming lifetime, and while some of them are strictly made up of a dungeon area, I’ve seen many that feature two separate worlds. The Dungeon World (1) is where the action takes place. It is usually made up of randomly generated rooms filled with enemies, items, secrets and more. The Outside World (2) usually consists of where you go to level up, purchase items, customize your character.
Boyfriend Dungeon‘s cast of characters each have their own spicy intro video when they come into the picture. Any time a new weapon is discovered, it’s actually a new character. What follows is one of these anime-style videos.
Boyfriend Dungeon may have the largest scale Outside World I’ve seen in one of these games. The Outside World in Boyfriend Dungeon is a full-on Dating Sim game. This game sort of works in reverse order, where the Outside World is the main world, and the Dungeon World is used to level up your weapons, even though that’s where the action happens.
Here’s something we see constantly on the internet whenever a big new game has a female protagonist:
Some Gamer Dude: “I don’t identify with this female lead character.
I mean, I’m a man!”
Female Video Game Character: “Didn’t you recently play as a Zombie, Robot, Lombax, Ghost, Skeleton, a Hedgehog? But a woman is where you draw the line?
Another human feels wrong, because of what?
Their gender is not your gender?”
Some Gamer Dude: “Uh, yeah. You get it!”
While playing Boyfriend Dungeon as elsie, a female character I created, I realized that I’ve never really felt like that before. I’ve never thought, ‘aw man, this character isn’t like me. I just don’t understand what’s happening at all.’ Maybe this is because I never actually feel like I am the main character in the game, no matter who they are. Instead, I feel more like a coach, or decision maker, possibly their conscience?
I’m just here to help them make it through their life journey (or some part of it), and once we’re done we will go our separate ways. Next, it’s time to move onto someone else’s life journey.
As a kid, when a game allowed you to create a character I would attempt to create some version of myself. Later on, it became more about creating the goofiest, silliest character, or some epic warrior, or seeing how strange looking I could make my character.
Sure, in WWE 2K22 I recently created myself, but that’s for two reasons (1) I could import a picture of my own face (which was a very creepy process), and (2) I’ve always wanted to be a pro wrestler, and WWE 2K22 has allowed me to do just that.
What especially made me connect with elsie in Boyfriend Dungeon was that I wanted to help her find love. That’s what “the dunj” is all about. I found both good and not so good suitors for my friend, elsie. Although I leveled up each weapon and was extra flirty while dating them all, I knew the two I really wanted for elsie from the very beginning.
It also helps that the team at Kitfox Games created this wonderful character, even though I was the actual “creator,” but they gave me great options for dialogue and choices. I really cared about elsie, and not just about her during our journey together, but I still wish her the best in life. That’s why I made sure to try to push her towards my favorite suitors.
There’s so many things I loved from Boyfriend Dungeon. I really enjoyed exploring the “dunj” with different weapons and seeing how far I could make it. Although the game gives you the choice to begin on lower floors of the “dunj,” I usually chose to start at the top floor. This way I could level up my weapons much faster.
The game also features multiple art styles, which I will dive into a bit further next week when I talk about the book and collector’s edition I was given by Limited Run Games (LRG). I will say that this game is worth playing, for the story and the dungeon crawling. Maybe there are other games out there that have mixed these two genres together, but this is the first one I played. Also, Boyfriend Dungeon mixed them so well.
Next week, I’ll share more on the book and collector’s edition of Boyfriend Dungeon.
Boyfriend Dungeon is out now on Nintendo Switch, Xbox consoles, PC and Mac.
*myVGBC.com was provided a review code for Boyfriend Dungeon by the developer/publisher Kitfox Games.