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The RPS Advent Calendar 2021, December 2nd

Love is a double-edged sword

It's day two of our 2021 Calendar! Welcome to the show! Tell us a little bit about yourself; what's your name and where d'you come from? We're gonna have a lorra lorra laughs tonight, so let's bring on the person you're going to - oh my god he's got a knife!!

That's right, it's date weapons 'em up Boyfriend Dungeon!

Rebecca: I may have two hands, but alas I only have the one brain, so realistically I can only play one video game at a time. Ordinarily I'm forced to choose between two of my favourite gameplay styles: bludgeoning my enemies in close-quarters melee combat, or falling hopelessly in love with fictional characters.

Enter Boyfriend Dungeon, which actively encourages you to do both those things at once! And it's not just a case of optional romance cut-scenes with your party members when you're safely out of combat. No, Boyfriend Dungeon properly integrates the hacky-slashy bits with the smoochy bits in an innovative way: by having you romance your weapons.

Dating sim composite games are a particular weakness of mine, so a visual novel-slash-dungeon crawler with dateable shapeshifting weapon-people was on my Steam wishlist about a femtosecond after I found out it was a thing. That was literal years ago now, but when the game finally came out in August, it did not disappoint me.

Combat in a dunj in Boyfriend Dungeon. The player, in top down view, is attacking several very large and angry flip phones

The combat in Boyfriend Dungeon isn't particularly hard to master, but it's good mindless smashy fun if you didn't go in looking for a challenge on a par with Hades. Let's be honest: this is definitely a dungeon crawler designed to be accessible to dating sim fans, rather than the other way around. But if that's the experience you go in for, then the only real fault I think you'll find with Boyfriend Dungeon is that there's not enough of it.

Kitfox Games have announced plans for DLC that will add more content to both halves of the game, but for now you have to be content with crawling just two dunjes, which admittedly can get played out before you've quite reached the end of the story. Realistically, though, the dunjes in this game were never the stars of the show: that was always going to be the sexy swords.

Seven from Boyfriend Dungeon

For me, the compelling writing and well-rounded characters were what elevated Boyfriend Dungeon from a fun diversion with an interesting gag as its central premise, to one of my favourite games of the year. Everyone I know who's played it came away with some strong feelings about their weapon of choice, which in my opinion is the sign that a game with visual novel elements has done its job well.

In my case, despite knowing absolutely nothing about K-pop and only slightly more about Star Wars, by the end of the game I'd fallen hard for blue-haired maknae idol and part-time lasersaber Seven. I won't spoil anything, but suffice to say his story impressed me by handling a sensitive topic close to my heart with refreshing nuance. His romance route felt understated and genuine, and grabbed me by the feels to the point where I found I couldn't picture choosing anyone else as my partner/weapon for the endgame dunj. He was truly perfect boyfriend material. He just wanted to cuddle on the couch and watch horror films instead of going nightclubbing on our dates, and if I pulled off a hit combo he could chain lightning across six of my enemies at once. Swoon.

Alice Bee: One of the characters in this sexts you about, like, his blade. End of pitch.

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The all-seeing eye of Rock, Paper, Shotgun, the voice of many-as-one.

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