Boyfriend Dungeon is a game where you date swords. Yes, you read that right. In a twist on the usual romantic visual novel format, in this game your she, he or they character has a plethora of sexy companions to choose from, who also happen to be able to turn into lethal weapons.
Set in the small community of Verona Beach, Boyfriend Dungeon starts you off as a newbie to town, looking to find love over a summer break with the help of your cheerful cousin Jessie. Verona Beach has the unique honour of being host to a number of sword shapeshifters, who can be wielded by other people to battle monsters in special dungeon-crawler locations called dunj-es. It’s the kind of premise that wouldn’t be out of place in a Japanese anime. Does it make sense? No, but something I like about this game is that it doesn’t have to. The game presents you with this information and never gets bogged down with asking how or why. They’re swords, but they’re also people… so let’s get dating!
The game plays out mostly in two phases. The first is the visual novel phase, where you go on various dates with your weapons, having conversations and making choices that affect how they feel about you in return. It’s a chance to get to know more about the characters, and is where the majority of the story happens. Each character is unique, and I found myself equally invested in all of them. It’s not all kisses and cuddles though — when booting up Boyfriend Dungeon for the first time, you might be surprised to receive a content warning about the inclusion of stalking and emotional manipulation, which mainly centres around the antagonist Eric.
The second phase is dungeon-crawling. Here your prospective lovers switch into their weapon forms, which you then take into multi-level dungeons filled with an array of monsters, hacking and slashing your way to the end to face a boss. Along the way you can gather crafting materials, money, and even meet more weapons to add to your roster.
The dungeon-crawling is what adds a welcome point of difference to the game. The controls are simple, and each weapon provides a different fighting style as well as special attributes that are unlocked as you get to know them better in the dating sections. I really liked that I felt incentivised to progress relationships with different weapons in order to unlock better perks.
On the downside, the dunj itself can be a bit hit and miss. The levels can get repetitive, and with that comes the temptation to simply brute force your way through. Many of the rooms have enemies that hone in on you as soon as you enter, and you can quickly become overwhelmed and have most of your life disappear before you’ve even started fighting back. It’s especially annoying when you enter an ambush room and enemies spawn already surrounding you or — as happened to me on a number of occasions — directly on top of you. Luckily there isn’t really any major downside to losing a battle, as you will simply be brought out of the dunj and returned safely home, ready to date another day.
Boyfriend Dungeon does a lot right. Its art style is polished and very consistent throughout the game. I found myself impressed with the attention to detail, like the transition effects between areas, or the cute little overworld map. The voice acting is also enjoyable throughout, though sometimes it disappointingly stops halfway through a conversation. Some UI choices also left me confused. A prime example is that characters will send you text messages (multiple, not just one) when they’re ready for the next date, which automatically appear as push notifications on the top of the screen. It’s annoying when you’re knee deep in fighting off monsters and your phone won’t stop beeping. One text notification would have been enough.
Overall, Boyfriend Dungeon attempts to take a tried and true otome formula and do something new with it, and succeeds. If you like dating games but are looking for something with a little more fight, you’ll want to pick this one up.
Boyfriend Dungeon offers a fun new take on the otome formula — well worth picking up if you’re after a dating game with a bit more action.
Ruby reviewed Boyfriend Dungeon using a retail Nintendo Switch code purchased on the Nintendo eShop.
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