I really enjoyed my fellow Canadian developer Rocket Adrift’s debut visual novel release, Order a Pizza, so I was excited to accept when they offered me a steam key for their latest project, Raptor Boyfriend! While the title might give you the impression that it’s going to be a wacky comedy, Raptor Boyfriend is really more of a grounded slice-of-life story about teen romance, friendship, and coming-of-age, with the twist that the protagonist’s high school classmates are a bunch of supernatural creatures. There is plenty of humour in there too, but what I was especially impressed with was the believable character relationships and relatable depiction of young people figuring out who they are. Read on for more detail about my impressions of this sweet, fun, and quirky story.
At the beginning of Raptor Boyfriend, protagonist Stella has just lost her grandmother, and moved into the old house her father inherited in the isolated Northern Ontario town of Ladle. There, she reunites with her childhood friend Taylor, a shy young man who happens to be a sasquatch—Ladle’s secluded location has made it the perfect place for families of cryptids and other strange creatures to settle down. She also quickly makes friends with a studious fairy girl named Day and a boisterous velociraptor boy named Robert, and the four of them form a group of misfits trying to survive their final year of high school together. The story is split into several episodes which each tend to focus on social events with the gang, and various scenes surrounding the main events provide opportunities to choose which of them you’d like some alone time with, as well as to unlock extra content through paying close attention to some of the dialogue. And no matter whose romance route you go after, the story largely centers around the friendship between all four main characters, with romance simply being one element of Stella’s life rather than the most important part of the plot.
Stella also struggles with social anxiety, and the players get some input into her strategies to combat it—which often lead to comedy when her perfect plans for how to act super cool go awry. But it’s not all played for laughs, and the more serious moments of Raptor Boyfriend handle a variety of issues teenagers might face in well-written and sensitive ways. Another great thing about Raptor Boyfriend is the art, which uses a lot of bright and contrasting colours for an aesthetic that matches its setting in the 1990s. The characters all have unique and appealing designs, and they even change outfits a few times with the seasons, which is a nice touch that makes the developments in their relationships over the course of a year feel more real and believable.
If there was one thing I felt could have been improved in Raptor Boyfriend, it would have been the way it handled its supporting cast. Around the time that you meet the three love interests, you’re also introduced to another friend or potential romantic partner that each one of them has—and in each case, their relationship seems to be on the rocks due to past events that Stella doesn’t know about. I think this is a great concept that gives a lot more life to the characters, and there are some pretty good scenes that explore these relationships, but I would have personally liked to see them fleshed out even more. Each route’s revelation of what’s going on between them comes in a scene where the characters pretty much directly tell you what happened, and I think it could have been more interesting to figure it out more gradually, or even to see some flashbacks to the love interests’ pasts in which the supporting characters could really shine. If Rocket Adrift plans on adding any extra content to the game in the future, I’d love to see something along those lines.
But I still appreciated those characters for what they did add to the story—and just like with Stella, Day, Robert, and Taylor, Rocket Adrift managed to write them in a way that feels accurate to real-life teenagers, despite the surreal world they live in. I had become pretty attached to the central crew of Raptor Boyfriend by the end of my first playthrough, and I also had a lot of fun going through it a couple more times to try different romance routes and dialogue options. Whether you’re interested in a heartfelt teen romance with a unique setting, or you just want to play pranks on a skateboarding dinosaur, Raptor Boyfriend is the visual novel for you.
[…] After that, I got into the hypertext game Excalibur, followed by the offbeat slice-of-life story Raptor Boyfriend. I looked at a queer take on the tropes of Western movies in Dead Man’s Rest, and then another […]