Dating sims are weird. I've romanced pigeons (opens in new tab), wholesome fathers (opens in new tab), monster prom hopefuls (opens in new tab), 90's velociraptors (opens in new tab), sacrificial goats (opens in new tab), Colonel Sanders (opens in new tab), and now, thanks to Kitfox Games, I can date hot people that can transform into deadly weapons. What a world we live in.
Boyfriend Dungeon (opens in new tab) is a dating sim combined with hack-n-slash (or as Kitfox calls it, a "shack and slash") dungeon delver, the idea being you meet human hotties and then use their transformational powers to fight monsters. The game's title focuses on boyfriends but you can date men, women, and non-binary folk. You can also pick your own pronouns in the character creator making for a super-inclusive dating sim, which is what we like to see. The only thing that stays the same across all games is your character being a big ball of stress and dating anxiety. Hopefully, a few outings with some sword people should sort that out.
After creating my character, I arrive in Verona Beach and am met by Jesse, my cousin who I apparently haven't seen in ten years. After a few pleasantries, he cuts to the chase and says he's already set me up to meet a sword friend of his called Issac, a business professional with a passion for dueling. He says it's totally not a date but just a super casual 'combat lesson' to show me the ropes of dungeon crawling. Sure Jesse, whatever you say.
Jesse described Isacc as 'straight-edged' and he wasn't joking. When I meet him, he's in weapon form, an épée with a long, thin blade with a sharp tip. He introduces himself, his words emanating from the sword, and we start exploring the dungeon. The combat is not as sharp as I thought it would be. It's simple enough, but dodging and attacking feels a little clunky, and even though an épée is supposed to feel light and swift, fighting almost feels like the opposite. Perhaps Isacc isn't the right sword for me? His attacks focus on being light on your feet and keeping distance between the enemy, but I'm someone who likes to get right into the thick of combat. Maybe there's a hot broadsword somewhere in this town?
The dungeon we're in is an abandoned mall and all the monsters take the shape of your deepest psychological fears. My character is apparently scared of intimacy through technology, so the mall is filled with snapping flip phones and floating television sets. Seems a little weird but I don't question it—it's the least strange thing in a game where I'm trying to romance swords.
We're not in the dungeon for long when we meet another sword: a sharp, curved blade called Sunder, who's unfortunately trapped in a chained box. We release him and he transforms back in his human form: a shirtless man with long, tousled brown hair that makes it look like he's constantly in front of a wind machine. If it wasn't for the studded leather jacket, he'd look exactly like the kind of character you'd see on the cover of cheesy love novels. He's confident and lays on the romance thick, then quickly says his goodbyes and saunters off, but not before we exchange numbers.
After getting my butt kicked in the dungeon, I'm taken back to my apartment. I've not even been awake for a minute before my phone blows up; Jesse is desperate to know how the 'not date' went, Issac wants to organise another training session, Sunder is asking me to drop by his club, and my mum demands an update on my love life, only a day after arriving here. Can't a girl catch a break?
Days in Verona Beach are split into visual novel sections where you get to know your love interest, and then dungeon crawling. Meeting up with characters and going on dates is important for leveling up each weapon's 'love rank', letting you unlock more abilities. In the two hours I played, I also met a big blonde softie called Jonah who can transform into an axe but is shy about it, a scruffy woman named Valeria who can shapeshift into a dagger, and Eric, a human swordsmith who can magically change into a giant asshole.
Each character's personality matches their weapon type, so Valeria for example is sharp and direct like a dagger. There are plenty of other characters further into the story who are teased on the game's Steam page (opens in new tab), one of which is Pocket the cat, who can turn into a pair of brass knuckles—pretty epic.
Seducing swords is fun and all, but Boyfriend Dungeon also has moments of unexpected seriousness. Before a coffee shop date Jesse has set up, my character decides to scope out the place ahead of the meet-up. She makes a mental note of where the exit is or, as she calls it, an "easy escape route", making sure to sit near there the next day. It may seem like a joke at first, but this is something many women do before meeting a stranger for a date, just to feel safe and better prepared.
Valeria does something similar before our first date, too, when she asks to meet in a public park and brings along a friend just to make sure everything is safe. Dating for many women and queer folk in general is, unfortunately, a huge risk, and meeting in public, having a friend on hand, and checking out the place are just some of the many safety tips used when meeting dates the first time. For a game about smooching sharp weapons, it's great to see Boyfriend Dungeon acknowledge that.
Although I wish the combat sections weren't such a chore, my first two hours with Boyfriend Dungeon have been fun. I'm definitely leaning more towards Valeria as my one true hottie, although I'm sure that will be challenged when I finally meet Pockets the cat. Kitfox hasn't announced a release date for Boyfriend Dungeon, but hopefully you'll be able to flirt with all the weapons you want soon.