Ever wanted to raise a pup and somehow navigate the mysteries of human dating at the same time? Meet the colourful cast of Rainbow Bay, date a few cuties, and teach a new dog new tricks – maybe even a flip. With the power of dogs and millennial woes on your side, this isn’t a game to miss!

Publisher:  Alliance
Reviewed on: PC
Also available for:
Nintendo Switch

Cast: Joshua Kamau, Luis Bermudez, Logan Bailey, Lizzy Hofe, Erin Evans-Walker, Anairis Quinones, Aimee Smith, Alex Brodie, Julie Park

Developer: Starcolt
Creative Director/Designer: Lucy Morris
Gamerunner: Calliope Ryder
Lead Artist: Brianna Fromont
Lead Programmers: Matthew Rowland, David Walton, Tom O’Brien
Lead Writer: Jessica Carter

Best Friend Forever is a combination of dating and dog management sim. You’ll spend an equal amount of time learning about potential romance interests and caring for your canine friend. If you love dogs and dating, the game is a shoo-in. A bright and colourful art style combined with genuinely hilarious dialogue makes the three-four hours it takes to complete Best Friend Forever a charming afternoon. It’s when you delve into repeat playthroughs, however, that the emptiness of the games dating and dog systems standout. 

The game begins with you arriving in Rainbow Bay. An apparent paradise for those looking for love and a canine friendship. After picking your character model out of a small selection of body types and selecting your pronouns you’re asked ten random questions. They’re kinda fun the first time, but in subsequent playthroughs, I’m not sure what differences they make on your character or potential love interests. 

After spending the night at your brand new apartment in Rainbow Bay you head off to adopt a doggo friend. 

There are four types of dogs you can adopt at the vet: Maltese, Shiba Inu, Staffordshire Bull Terrier and Mutt. All are their own level of cute, of course, but I ran with the Shiba Inu on my first run which has the default name of ‘Chesseball,’ which I kept. 

Adopt dogs! - image captured by author

Adopt dogs! – image captured by author

At all points throughout the game, your dog is in the bottom right-hand corner. You can pet it to your heart’s content. There’s even a pet combo metre that achieves nothing but is funny none-the-less. At different times your dog may pull away or drop a doo-doo and you must respond by pulling them back or putting the doo-doo in the bin. These mini-games have you acting fast to keep your dog stats up. It’s like having a dog-Tamagotchi in the corner of your typical visual novel.

At the end of every week, you set a number of tasks to train your dog in. These will increase your dogs’ manners, sociability, trust, smarts and fitness levels. Over the course of the fifteen weeks, you’ll have three tests which award you on how well you’ve been training your dog, otherwise, these stats don’t really matter. 

You’ll also be washing, feeding and grooming your dog each week, but again, I’m not sure what having a dirty dog does, other than make you look a fool. 

Please wash your dog. 

There are six potential romance options in Best Friend Forever with a wide range of personalities and body types. None of them are locked off to you no matter what pronouns you pick, or what sexuality you’re playing your character as. I flirted with literally everyone but one character, Felix, who I think is a bit of a jerk. 

I’m a classy man on my big date with Astrid - image captured by author

I’m a classy man on my big date with Astrid – image captured by author

In my first playthrough, I romanced Astrid Brooks, a former ballet star and now training ice-skating prodigy. But I also spent several dates with Sacha Cross, a leader at the non-profit queer counselling group in Rainbow Bay. Astrid and Sacha are polar opposite characters, but the one thing they have in common, as does every other romance choice in Best Friend Forever — they all have doggos. 

Choosing to romance a particular character isn’t hard. You’ll be able to talk to nearly every character within the amount of time you have each day and simply making sure to talk to them will lead you to your first date. There’s no downside to going on dates with every character in the game either. Go crazy! 

While this makes the first playthrough exciting and playful, it does show how little your choices and dog training makes to the overall narrative and romance options. I kinda assumed that what dog you picked, and how you trained it, would affect romance choices, but it doesn’t make any difference. It seems like a missed opportunity to tie the dog-sim stuff into the dating more.