HomeReviews3.5/5 ReviewRaptor Boyfriend: A High School Romance Review

Raptor Boyfriend: A High School Romance Review

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The next time I’m asked what I do with my free time, I’m going to load up the Xbox Store, and say this, this is what I do: I review games like Raptor Boyfriend: A High School Romance. I’ll look them dead in the eyes. And that’s when it will happen. Two other raptors will come from the side and gut them. Clever girl. 

Sorry, that image got away from us. But still, the point stands: this isn’t a game we’d proudly show to display our interests – it’s a visual novel where we get to woo not only a velociraptor, but a rad velociraptor from the ‘90s. His name is Brandon, and he likes to skateboard and prank people, like Denver the Last Dinosaur (deep cut, ‘90s kids). Not only that, but we can choose someone else as our partner, if we want. We can choose to flirt with a bigfoot, ghost or fairy instead. 

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It’s a lot to process. It’s only going to go one of two ways, right? It’s either going to be twee and quirky, or aimed squarely at fetishists who, well, like making eyes at dinosaurs. But, the thing is – and we’ve been doing a lot of this recently – we have judged this book by its cover. We failed to spot a third path. Raptor Boyfriend: A High School Romance approaches its high-school storytelling earnestly and innocently, as a rite-of-passage visual novel. Think Life is Strange, chopped up into a visual novel format and with the odd dinosaur, and you’re there. It is neither twee nor weirdly sexualised. 

Instead, this is the story of Stella, a girl (human, no scales) who has recently moved into the town where she used to go to holiday camp when she was younger. That detail’s important, as she has an old friend here: a camp friend who she stopped writing letters to, and is forced to confront. This is the bigfoot, Taylor, and he has been carrying a crush for Stella, which just adds to the awkwardness. But before you get to meet Taylor, you get pranked by the local jock and terrible lizard, Brandon, and cross paths with a bookish but antisocial fairy called Day. 

These four individuals form your love-quadrilateral, a group of soon-to-be-friends with an ample amount of sexual tension. You are the catalyst for them all coming together, and soon you are collaborating on coursework, traveling to ‘The Lake’ for drunken trysts, and getting high at house parties. This is very much a traditional American high-school upbringing, but with added ‘cryptids’.

‘Cryptids’ is the neat catch-all term that Raptor Boyfriend: A High School Romance gives its ‘unusual folk’. Ladle, the town where this all takes place, is a beacon for the outcasts of society, and that includes antlered people, ghosts, bigfeet and all sorts of others. It’s a reasonably well-handled metaphor for ‘otherness’, as Ladle is a place where an individuals uniqueness and queerness is hand-waved. If you are looking for stories where being different is celebrated, then Raptor Boyfriend: A High School Romance is going to hit hard. 

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The novel takes place over seven chapters (Raptor Boyfriend: A High School Romance tried to convince us that these span seven ‘weeks’, but the timeline doesn’t feel right). Stella meets with the crew, builds camaraderie with them all, and ends the day back home, at a kind of hub where she can choose to make some small, defining choices. She can think about a particular person while sitting in a bay window (which helps the game to understand who you’re fancying right now), and then phone someone to trigger a conversation or a branching bit of gameplay. 

The scenario in each chapter is surprisingly cyclical: an idea is pitched, normally by the affable, extroverted Brandon, and the rest of the introverted group grumble about whether they can face doing it. Lake-side jaunts, group projects and house parties are all considered, reconsidered and then eventually agreed on. But during the event, someone, often Stella, will perform a socially awkward feat and the outing will collapse in on itself – the group returning to their individual homes. 

It’s our biggest gripe with Raptor Boyfriend: A High School Romance. The chapters feel too much like templates. You can fit the above formula to most, if not all, of the different chapters. We’d have loved for it to shake off the shackles, be ambitious and go for something more freeform. There’s one section when Stella and Day split off individually and make drunk prank calls, and it’s a huge amount of fun. We can’t help thinking that it worked so well because Raptor Boyfriend: A High School Romance had stepped off its own railtracks and tried something different. 

Our second biggest gripe is that it’s all a tad maudlin. Everyone is dealing with their own crap, which is completely understandable and acceptable. But absolutely everyone is dealing with their crap, all the time, and very visibly. Wounds are on display, and people keep poking at the wounds on other people. Often, Stella can return home after a terrible night with the gang, and we wondered if these cryptids were actually healthy for each other. We’re still not completely sure. 

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What we are sure of, however, is that more levity would have been a strong medicine. The game didn’t have to be so introspective and downbeat, certainly when it has humour in its locker. Raptor Boyfriend: A High School Romance can be a very funny game, when it lets itself be. Let’s go further than that: Raptor Boyfriend: A High School Romance is an extremely well-written game all round, but it can drag and repeat, and with a better editor or an understanding of its issues, Rocket Adrift could be standing atop the virtual novel pile. Its peaks are that peaky. 

Even with the flaws, we reached the end of Raptor Boyfriend: A High School Romance with a deep affection for its shabby, lazy, endearing little characters. They are all easy to love, once you get to know them, and we felt Stella’s pain at the prospect of not seeing Brandon, Taylor or Day again. In a dating sim or coming-of-age story like this, you want every character to have something to hook onto, and Raptor Boyfriend: A High School Romance’s hooks are so sharp they could be raptor claws. 

Don’t be put off by the gimmicky and quirky naming: Raptor Boyfriend: A High School Romance is a heartfelt visual novel, beautifully executed and with a soundtrack that could have tumbled out of Chloe Price’s record collection. If you’re drawn into high-school coming-of-age stories, then this will be your latest pageturner. Just don’t focus too deeply on how the story repeats itself.

You can buy Raptor Boyfriend: A High School Romance from the Xbox Store

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