‘Boyfriend Dungeon’ review: a shallow fling, but a fun one

The kind of date you enjoy but never really think about again

Boyfriend Dungeon is simultaneously really rather wholesome and also a bit creepy and unsettling too, which is kind of like the dating process, isn’t it? Able to restore your faith in humanity while also creeping you out, dating has its highlights and its lowlights and that’s Boyfriend Dungeon too. It’ll beguile you but you’ll find yourself wondering if that was more because it was pretty easy to go along with the ride rather than because it was genuinely good. Again, like an okay date but perhaps not one that makes you desperate to return for more. At least this is one dating experience that won’t end with an inbox full of dick pics.

Of course, timing is everything here for Boyfriend Dungeon. It’s a rogue-like dungeon crawler at a time when many of us are still soaking up the wonders of Hades, as helped by its recent Xbox Game Pass release, and Boyfriend Dungeon can’t compare when it comes to combat in particular. Divided between dating sequences where you choose how to respond to your prospective dates, and some simplistic dungeon crawling, the former is the far more interesting of the two.

Boyfriend Dungeon. Credit: Kitfox Games.
Boyfriend Dungeon. Credit: Kitfox Games.

Talking to your dates is pretty simple. As someone who’s never dated before but is throwing themselves into a hot protagonist summer, you either use your phone to exchange a series of text messages conveying how you feel or you can meet them for dates once you’ve built up enough of a relationship for them to be willing to meet in person. How you converse is a little limited but it’s enough with choices generally either being rather indifferent to your beau, overly keen, or potentially making a complete mess of things. As expected, there are many different people you can meet. These include men, women, non-binary characters, and even an impressively moody cat. The variety is pretty good but I’ll be honest – I’m not sufficiently knowledgeable with how good a job Boyfriend Dungeon does at dealing with the wide spectrum of sexualities and I wouldn’t pretend to be. I am an expert in spotting a creep though and one character – Eric – is a massive creep.

He’s the game’s main antagonist and there is a reason for his existence. After all, all games need some form of conflict otherwise they end up dull and overly safe. As you progress, there’s more of a reason as to why Eric exists too but he’s still a creep. An utter creep. Refusing to take no for an answer and constantly messaging you, he’s likely to unsettle some players and I get it. Amongst the fairly sweet-natured of the other dates (including the adorably nervous yet successful Isaac), Eric stands out like a sore and irritating thumb. He demonstrates one of the less pleasant elements of dating well though.

Outside of dating and conversations, you’ll spend your time fighting through one of two dungeons (formerly malls) to build up a bond between you and your date because – oh yes – did I mention your dates can all turn into weapons? It’s a bizarre concept that you end up feeling entirely comfortable with the moment it’s mentioned early on in the game. It just works and makes perfect sense in this strange world even if it’s never fully explained. Scythes, laser sabers (it’s a lightsaber) and brass knuckles all feature here with each weapon offering their own strengths and weaknesses. As you develop your relationship with a date/weapon, you unlock new abilities too which automatically activate as you progress through beating up everything in your wake.

It’s simple stuff though. Combat is mostly a matter of using a combination of light and heavy attacks as well as dodging incoming blows as and when needed. Boyfriend Dungeon isn’t a hard game by any means so you really don’t have to worry about timing very often. The only times a vague challenge comes your way is when a boss battle pops up. These are quite nice metaphors with you having to face your fear such as a giant phone that, presumably, you’re scared of using to call your date. Eventually, you’ll come across your fear of intimacy as represented by a massive heart that’s chained to the ground, stopping you from fully feeling love. Again, simple strategies mean you can defeat them but the meaning behind it all is nice.

The dungeon trash you come across earlier on is similar too with small phones, aggressive kisses and cocktail glasses all needing to be defeated along the way. Occasional breaks within the dungeons allow you to chill by a fountain or partake in arcade games with your date so you get to know them a bit better before offering up a gift to woo them further.

Boyfriend Dungeon. Credit: Kitfox Games.
Boyfriend Dungeon. Credit: Kitfox Games.

Those gifts are crafted from items you find in the dungeon before heading back to your apartment to piece them together and then continue the process once more. There are clothing items too with some offering bonuses in combat such as increased damage or the ability to stun your enemies. If you don’t fancy crafting, there are shops to check out too with money accrued gradually while you’re taking out the dungeon trash.

Ultimately though, don’t expect too much depth here. It’s all pleasant enough but lacking much bite for deep discussion later. Boyfriend Dungeon comes across as a fleeting and rewarding distraction. This isn’t a long-term relationship. Completing it once only takes about 4-5 hours and while there are reasons for extra playthroughs (to see how dates go), it’s the talk of the town for a brief but lovely moment rather than something to remember for months or years to come. A fun fling, if you will. Sometimes, that’s all you need. Especially in the summer months like right now.

Boyfriend Dungeon is available on Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC. We played the Xbox One version.

The Verdict

Boyfriend Dungeon is fun and more frivolous than you’d expect. It has some entertaining moments and it certainly keeps you coming back for more until you’ve had your fill. You’ll forget about it in the end but as a summertime fling, it does the job pretty well. You certainly won’t be complaining.

Pros

  • Varied dating options
  • Straddles roguelike and visual novel genres reasonably well
  • Very pick up and play-ish

Cons

  • Pretty shallow under the surface
  • Ultimately forgettable
  • Eric might unsettle some players
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