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Review: Boyfriend Dungeon Includes Good (and Bad) Dates

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One of the things that I believe is the mark of a fascinating game is the ability to inspire strong feelings about it. If it can also leave me wanting to discuss its primary characters with anyone else I know who’s also played it and marathon-play it until I beat it, those are added bonuses. While there are certain things about Boyfriend Dungeon that left me annoyed or frustrated, I also couldn’t get enough of playing it.

Boyfriend Dungeon begins with you as an inexperienced person who hasn’t really formed any close ties with anyone. To help broaden your horizons, you, your mom, and your cousin Jesse decided you’d visit Verona Beach for the summer. Jesse just moved in with his partner Samantha, so his old apartment is open for the entire period for you to use. Your goal is to meet people, learn to dive into and survive dungeons, and become a Wielder for people who happen to be able to turn into weapons. And as you wield them, you’ll also form friendships and romantic relationships with them. At launch, you can fight alongside three men, one woman, two non-binary partners, and a cat. (The Kickstarter also resulted in an additional man and woman being funded, but neither are in the game yet.)

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I like to think of the roguelike elements in Boyfriend Dungeon as incredibly forgiving ones. You can turn on a shield in the options, to halve damage and make runs much easier. But essentially you go in, beat things up with your weapon-ally, and do so until you die. Or reach an elevator, which tends to come up every few floors and on the same floor as a miniboss or boss. Most of your new weapon friends show up in the dungeon, though you will meet one in the tutorial and another via a different method. Hangout spaces in dungeons boost relationship values, and so does using someone on a floor. You can switch your partner before heading to the next floor too, to keep everyone at an even pace and level. And each weapon-person is a different sort of weapon, with their own skill-tree, which means you can probably find one who works well for you.

While the dungeons are great fun, there isn’t much variety to their enemies. Sunder and Mandy’s La Rosa club is better about enemy diversity, but you’ll see the same sorts of foes–perhaps with different color palettes and more health–in both it and the Mall. The use of secret shops come up and I found myself wanting more of an explanation for them. And it is a bit frustrating that you don’t actively get stronger as you dungeon-crawl. Eventually, you will hit a wall where you are dealing 0-1 points of damage and need to be knocked out to “level up” so you can progress further the next time.

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Which means the strongest parts are, well, the “boyfriend” part of Boyfriend Dungeon. It makes sense too. Every character you can pursue has a fantastic storyline. Even the one I didn’t initially like, Sunder, grew on me to the point that I put him in the friendzone, then dragged him out of it because his route is so fascinating. You can complete everyone’s storyline in a single run. (And unlike the Persona series, people won’t get mad at you for it.) Which means you can complete everything the first go around. And if romance is for you, you can choose to be friends with people and every weapon-person (and cat) will respect that. So you’ll constantly get texts from these people (or the cat’s owner), get chances to make and give gifts to them, and visit locations for visual novel-style dates/hangouts.

But as great as the writing is for the routes, there are times when Boyfriend Dungeon feels like it does something of a disservice to its NPCs. Jesse is an active presence in your life, until it seems like a certain point. Then, with your cousin’s “mission” complete, it feels like you’re ghosted. You go for about half of the game with a permanently pinned message from him with no updates until a certain point. Likewise, Olivia can feel like an “all purpose person” called in when a route needs a friend/potential love interest/enemy. 

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I also take issue with the use of one of the villains in Boyfriend Dungeon and how it is approached. While it is realistic, I feel it doesn’t offer realistic options for dealing with the situation. For example, when someone begins stalking you, you aren’t allowed block the person’s number or pursue a dialogue option that involves reporting this antagonist to the police. The overall arc also involves the player being forced to “be the bigger person” and continue interactions, even if you’ve continually chosen responses that say that is the exact opposite of what you want. I took no issue with being the one to clean up messes. I had a problem with being forced to “make nice” while doing so. 

Boyfriend Dungeon is satisfying and very good at making you care about its weapon-people (and cat). The gameplay loop is among the most addictive I’ve seen, especially since it is constantly rewarding you with more scenes with its characters and opportunities to get stronger. Which does put a damper on the elements that aren’t quite perfect. Jesse and Olivia could have been handled better as NPCs, only having two dungeons right away makes it feels like things end too quickly, and I hated having to be the bigger person and keep dealing with an antagonist. That said, when the heavily teased additional characters and dungeon come out, I absolutely can’t wait to return to Verona Beach.

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Boyfriend Dungeon is available for the Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and PC. It is also on Xbox Game Pass.

Boyfriend Dungeon

7

Food for Thought
  • Isaac, Rowan, and Seven are my probably my three favorite characters, though everyone has a fantastic storyline.
  • I recommend you go through Sunder's route first *and* get his relationship maxed out as soon as possible, as the item he gives you helps you more quickly boost your relationship with other characters.
  • I really liked the "Mom" texts you can get and felt they were caring and considerate, without being too invasive.
  • Additional content and an extra dungeon seem to be *very* heavily telegraphed.
    If you want to know more, check out Siliconera's review guide.
    Jenni Lada
    Jenni is Editor-in-Chief at Siliconera and has been playing games since getting access to her parents' Intellivision as a toddler. She continues to play on every possible platform and loves all of the systems she owns. (These include a PS4, Switch, Xbox One, WonderSwan Color and even a Vectrex!) You may have also seen her work at GamerTell, Cheat Code Central, Michibiku and PlayStation LifeStyle.