A swordid affair.
I’ll level with you. I like men, I like swords, and I like shit that transforms. So upon seeing that triple treat thrown into a narrative-driven adventure with a side of slicing hordes of baddies to shreds, I was both enthralled and entirely suspicious. Boyfriend Dungeon a dating game with boyfriends, it’s a roguelike with dungeons, and the two intertwine almost effortlessly.
Your story begins in the coastal postcode of Verona Beach, where you’ve elected to stay for the summer. You’re met with your old cousin, Jesse, who has offered his old apartment for you to stay in, as well as some guidance in the old romance department.
However, nothing is without its caveats, and Jesse soon informs you that a good proportion of the people in this town can turn into blades. Swords, scimitars and staffs, all unassumingly sexy. The other portion of the town are known as ‘Wielders’; they can’t turn into weapons, but they do get to go on monster-slaying escapades with the aforementioned. You happen to be a Wielder, and an attractive one at that, with a whole roster of transforming totty at your disposal. Play your cards right and you’ll be handling hilt all night long, if you catch my drift.
Boyfriend Dungeon’s core combat takes place in, well, dungeons, playfully dubbed as ‘dunj’ here. They follow the formula of most classic crawlers; you and your bae blade run through a series of levels slapping down foes – which happen to be physical manifestations of your own insecurities – until you’re dead. Or in this case, carted back home in what has to be an eye-wateringly expensive ambulance ride. Or maybe healthcare is also free in this entirely fictional realm where hot people turn into daggers.
As you make your way through these dungeon runs, the weapon you use will improve and your ‘love level’ will increase. This unlocks new perks for your weapons, new combat styles, and each one satisfies a different playstyle and compliments the character’s personality. At the top of every love level, a new interaction with the human-form of said weapon will become available, and it’s up to you how far you take it. I had my heart set on Sunder, the edgy leather-clad schmoozer, but his weapon abilities didn’t quite satisfy me the way that Valeria – the husky, sceptical dagger – did. Valeria’s blade form gave me an ability to confuse my enemies for a few seconds – much like Valeria herself did, but with my own sexuality.
While you progress through both high-octane combat and relaxed and narrative scenes, you’ll unlock more characters and activities while slowly unravelling the mystery of why you keep finding sentient swords in dungeons. You can craft gifts for your choppy companions from resources found in the dunj, and each character prefers a certain type of present. Some will even reject gifts, so be careful what type of message you want to send to a love interest that can also shank you in the liver.
The game is a refreshing balance of flirting and fighting; I’m not usually a fan of roguelikes, but each run through was manageable and rewarding enough to not put me off. There’s also a ‘goddess shield’ setting in the menu that’ll take the edge off if like me, you’re not really here for it. However, while the combat on offer did enough to sate me, I can see it not feeling robust enough to satisfy the discerning rogue-liker that craves a bigger challenge. While I did also find the overall combat a little clunky in parts, the irritation of dying to an awkward dodge or misplaced flail didn’t hit all that much when there is so much so do outside of the dunj, whether that be spending your well-earned money on a new ‘fit, checking out new crafting recipes found in battle, or checking in on your charming arsenal. You can engage in romances with as many weapons as you like (just like real life), and they all seem chill with a dash of pointy polyamory. It would have been nice to have more at stake with that element.
In all, Boyfriend Dungeon is an incredibly refreshing take on a genre that otherwise may not be all that satisfying on its own. Neither portion is overwhelming; the talking parts are engaging and provocative, the fighting parts satisfying and fair for the most part, even if they were slightly lacking in substance. Despite reticence for dungeon-crawlers, I wanted to hit the dunj repeatedly in this game for the rewards, and I looked forward to perishing because of the narrative progression I could catch up on afterwards, creating an enticing loop that kept me playing for hours. Give it a tickle if you’re a sucker for a sickle.