Tanya X. Short over at Kitfox games knew exactly what she was doing when she conceived of Boyfriend Dungeon. Superficially, one might assume the game to be a cold and calculated marketing maneuver, the kind to be taught in business schools as a laser-sighted focus on a toothy gaping void in the market and grilling up some sweet buns to slide right in there. But Short is the first to admit that the success of Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator was a bright light signaling that much of the world had caught up to what she already knew: dating sims, often in the form of visual novels, were rad as hell and fun to play. Her audience had arrived.
Boyfriend Dungeon aims higher than mere dating sim idolatry, however. Short and team Kitfox are neither amateur alchemists nor soulless data-driven salespeople, proven with their genre-bending titles such as the ambitious “RPG personality test” Moon Hunters and the bi-chromatic narrative “cult simulator” The Shrouded Isle. They’re looking to continue this creatively lucrative trend with Boyfriend Dungeon, which wears a dating sim on its sleeve but bears a dungeon crawler as its beating heart.
Like most adventure games of that nature, your character is tasked with trawling monster dens with a variety of weapons—the twist here being that these tools of the trade transform into a variety of beautiful humanoids that span the gender spectrum. In order to beef up your martial tools, the player must foster meaningful and possibly kissy relationships with these blades.
Kitfox’s concept isn’t a far walk from the Persona series, which she cites as another inspiration for Boyfriend Dungeon’s contemporary fictional California setting and focus on building relationships through social dynamics. But rather than luxuriating among a pantheonic harem of infinite romantic delights, Short says that Boyfriend Dungeon will focus on fewer but deeper relationships. She’s hoping to accommodate a range of player-types, crafting this game for both short bursts and extended sessions all built around a sexy power fantasy anchored by a central story based on an unlucky-in-love player character getting caught up in a tempest of Goddesses of Love and War. Going by the trailer, Short and her team are already deep into the project, though they’ve been working it for little more than a year.
There isn’t much to go on other than a minute of video and my chat with Short, but the what we know of Boyfriend Dungeon so far leads towards heartfelt clarity bursting with potential. A fourth weapon/boyfriend was announced not too long ago, and each feels distinct in lethality and personality, including a lasersaber, dagger, talwar, and an épée. The trailer garnered a lot of attention but Short says it’s been primarily positive, and she’s playing the face of the game in order to shield her team from any online bullshit.
Creatively she’s also learned to draw strength from her impulses and see where the idea carries Kitfox. Her confidence feels well earned, deftly swiped from scaly beasts and celestial forces and buffed by active listening and considerate gestures. As someone who hasn’t had the patience for many dating sims to date, to me Boyfriend Dungeon truly feels like a special blend that just might be able to gently draw players across genres into its rippling, deadly arms.