Best Friend Forever by Starcolt is a visual novel that combines a dating simulator with a dog owner simulator.
Best Friend Forever begins with your character moving to the town of Rainbow Bay — voted the most dog friendly city in the world since 2016! You then have to adopt and train a dog, and have several characters to choose from.
Your first task is to sign up to the dating app Woofr, answering ten questions. You then receive your diverse cast of matches to choose from: Anders, Astrid, Felix, Maribel, Robin and Sacha.
Every adult in Rainbow Bay owns at least one dog, and so next your character has to adopt your new best friend. There is a choice of four dogs (a mutt, a Shiba Inu, a Staffordshire Bull Terrier and a Maltese). Each one has different personality traits and a different difficulty level. You can then rename your dog and take them home!
Each day, you can choose up to five activities to do, bumping into one of your Woofr matches throughout Rainbow Bay, or even going on a date! Afterwards, you have to pick five activities to boost your dog’s behaviour and personality stats too. You have regular check ins at the vet clinic, with assessments at Weeks six, ten and 14 to monitor your progress.
From the start of the game, when answering the ten questions for Woofr, I knew I’d enjoy this game. The dating app questions are very fun and silly — it really set the tone for the humour and mood of the rest of the game. Maybe it’s because the main character is as awkward around people as I am, but the dialogue made me genuinely laugh out loud at times!
The characters that you can date were all really interesting, with distinct personalities. Most of the random encounters had a question for my character to answer, and my response would determine the outcome and how much each character liked me. I liked that they were really diverse, including characters who are trans and disabled, and same-sex relationships are possible too. The romance options feel very natural, which I also appreciated!
In my playthrough, I adopted my dream dog, a mutt called Churro. The choices of daily activities were all really creative and different. While he never achieved higher than a bronze medal each time, he was never going to be valedictorian. I never quite figured out how the stats worked or how to improve (I made sure he had all of his mood levels set to green), but he is still my favourite boy!
Throughout the game, your companion sits at the bottom right of the screen, with regular instances you have to react to, such as your dog pulling on the lead or digging a hole. It took me a little while to figure out how to complete some of them successfully, but once I got the hang of it they were a really fun addition to the game. They made your dog feel more central to the story, especially when he would interact with the characters around you.
The whole game was so much fun to play. I liked that while there were dating sim elements to it, your dog is also a key focus. Every part of the game seemed to be designed to be inclusive and I learned things in the game too. I loved every minute of this game and want to move to Rainbow Bay myself! It was the perfect escapist fantasy.
Best Friend Forever was released on 27th August by Starcolt and is now available on Steam and on itch.io for Windows PC and Mac, and on Nintendo Switch. You can also download a free demo to try it out before you buy, or find out more information on the official Best Friend Forever website.