The strange magic that operates in Boyfriend Dungeon
Honestly, when Boyfriend Dungeon was announced and then funded via Kickstarter in 2018, I was not tempted. To be very transparent, I even had a priori. I told myself that such a game was simply not made for me and that hitting on men, that did not interest me. Well, after just a few minutes of playing, those prejudices were shattered. Even better, after having finished it without being able to let go of my controller, I want more!
Boyfriend Dungeon is a weird game in many ways. The pitch is simple: you have just arrived at Verona Beach for the summer and moved in with your cousin who leaves shortly after your arrival. The latter also undertakes to find you datesbecause he knows you’ve never dated someone. He texts you to set up a first date with Eric. The encounter happens and in the conversation he tells you that monsters have appeared in the mall. You go there and find a foil who starts talking to you before transforming into an elegant young man. He explains to you that you are in a dungeon filled with monsters representing your most intimate fears.
Kitfox Games’ game is divided into two phases: the first consists of destroying the creatures and collecting the various resources in the dungeon while the second takes the form of a dating-sim or flirting game in French. Because yes, your goal is to meet love. This is how you start by creating your character by choosing not your gender but your pronouns, a detail that could not be more important, and rightly so, in relationships nowadays. We also select the skin color, the cut and the hair color, our clothes then roll, youth.
In the dungeons, Boyfriend Dungeon takes the form of a very accessible Action-RPG. One button for normal hits, one for hard hits and finally another for dodge rolls. Two other buttons are used to drink a beverage to heal yourself (which can also be personalized in the menu) and to activate magazines which act as spells. They can send a fireball, put enemies to sleep, frighten them, etc …
The different floors of the dungeon are generated randomly. If an elevator is present, you can come back to the surface and take a break. In the event that you lose all of your life points, you are simply escorted home without further penalty. The transition between each level is also an opportunity to observe the evolution of our attachment to our weapons, but also to change them. They are seven in number and offer a great diversity.
The fights are really very pleasant. We chain the combos with the different weapons which are all potential conquests. The enemies are interesting and will seek to go around to take you from behind. We must be vigilant at all times. Each floor (or almost) offers one or more zones called safe which are an opportunity to heal oneself, if indeed we find the right thing to say to the weapon that accompanies us. We also have a few bosses, but they are no longer there to symbolize our growth. They are therefore not very numerous.
Boyfriend Dungeon’s dating phases
It is the element which attracted me the least at the beginning. However, it is clear that Kitfox managed a real magic trick since I was spellbound from start to finish. When we receive an SMS from the person concerned with a meeting place and we go there, a conversation begins. The subjects are as varied as the characters, each with their own unique personality, flaws, weaknesses and strengths. We are invited to make decisions whether in the conversation itself or the texts. When you get to know them, the characters become very endearing.
I must say that as a native Frenchman, and a Canadian by adoption for “only” 10 years, I am still just as confused about the way relations work in North America. I have never been confronted with it. My wife is French with the same points of reference as me. In that sense, Boyfriend Dungeon is a great catch-up session for me. Even though I find this system strange, the magic happens, I observe and experiment. Juggling between different relationships isn’t the easiest, but the Kitfox game makes it easier.
An essential hub
Your room you find yourself in after every dungeon excursion and encounter also serves as a hub. This is where you can indulge in a very simple crafting phase: you find recipes in the dungeons, and if you have the necessary ingredients, you can craft the item in question. It can be new magazines, clothes but also gifts to offer to your conquests.
There is also a mirror that will allow us to modify our initial character sheet. Indeed as in real life, nothing is written in stone. The proof, a clipper and we change hairstyle. Or we explore our sexuality and / or our gender. May result in a transition to another or become non-binary. This is one of the reasons that makes Boyfriend Dungeon so essential and necessary in the gaming landscape. So much variety in the characters could only come from a diverse development team itself.
Let’s face it, Boyfriend Dungeon isn’t the best looking game of 2021. But it’s smart. It adopts a very sober artistic direction which allows to hide the gaps and especially to prevent the bugs. In the genre rogue-lite, it does much better than The Ascent, whose technical and design problems are dragging its feet. In addition, Kitfox’s game mainly offers static screens in the dredging phases which makes it possible to avoid having resource-intensive animations and to enjoy hand-drawn portraits.
However, we appreciate the dubbing scattered sparingly which makes the most important dialogues even more alive. The voice actors do an exemplary job and we are sometimes at the limit of ASMR.
We should also mention the excellent soundtrack composed by Marskye. Sometimes jazzy, sometimes mellow, with the parts sung outside and instrumental in the dungeons, it’s perfect. The most music lovers will recognize a style somewhat borrowed from Shoji Meguro, the official composer of the series. Persona. And this is not to displease us.
In short, if you like games made with love, which teach you things while tackling sometimes difficult subjects, then you are going to love Boyfriend Dungeon. I say it bluntly, Kitfox’s game dethrones Bravely Default II and becomes my game of the year. The game is available now on PC, Mac, Switch and Xbox.
- The concept
- Dynamic fights
- The variety of characters
- Criticism of today’s society
- The haunting soundtrack
10 / 10