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This game is one that you either love, or you hate. I love it; but there are a lot of people who give this game low and negative reviews. Your mileage may vary. It is not a happy sunshiney game. And since it is a visual novel, you’re not going to do much besides read, play a few mini games, and make some choices to reach a few different endings. It’s a very personal game, and you come to care a lot about the characters, which makes some (most) of the endings pretty gut-wrenching which enrages a lot of people.
The one thing I would like to point out, 99% of the negative reviews on steam, mention the scene where you’re moving boxes from conveyor belts and into a truck. YOU CAN STOP AT ANY TIME. People get bored here, and never play the game any further, or they bitch about this one particular scene (there are a few other similar scenes) and ignore the other more emotionally engaging scenes when writing their review. The game is only as “boring” and “repetitive” as you want to make it lol.
Title: Always Sometimes Monsters
Publisher: Vagabond Dog
Genre: Visual Novel (I guess? or RPG without any combat. Visual Novel’s probably the closest description, but you get to wander around rpg-maker style maps and play a lot of minigames.) (Actually it played kinda similar to To the Moon; but is more about making choices, instead of just reading one story. There’s several stories within this story.)
Where to Buy: Steam for the PC version $9.99.
And apparently there are cheaper IOS and Android versions? Interesting.
Pick up the Android version on amazon here: $4.99 http://www.amazon.com/Devolver-Digital-Always-Sometimes-Monsters/dp/B00QXF3B7A
Pick up the IOS version here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/always-sometimes-monsters/id968827222?mt=8 also $4.99
Overall: 70 / 90 78% C+ “Good Game for Girls”
Concept: 10/10 This is a game with a lot of personalization and customization. It allows you to select the gender, appearance, and name of your main character (as well as your significant other) and then throughout the game, you are presented with moral dilemmas which impact the ending you receive.
Story 10/10: I won’t spoil much here. But the main overarching story is that your ex invites you accidentally to their wedding. This makes you realize that you still love them and that you intend to go to the wedding to confess your love or try to stop the couple from getting married. You have no job, no car, no money, and you need to get half way across the country. In order to do this, you do favors for people and little by little get rides in return that help you reach your destination. Often you have to sleep outside, eat out of garbage cans, and wonder if you’re making the right decisions. There are numerous setbacks and lots of plot twists as well. As mentioned, because it is a visual novel styled game, your story will be slightly different from any one else’s, and you can replay it to get different outcomes.
Characters 10/10: The script is written in a very “down to earth” way; and it makes the characters seem very real. There are some really strong emotions in this game. From anger, jealousy, resentment, fear, sadness, guilt, empathy, forgiveness, redemption, etc. Most all of the characters have flaws, from stealing, to infidelity, to jealousy, selfishness, indulgence, even addictions (gambling, drugs, sex, etc). This makes the cast very real and really helps with immersion.
Gameplay: 8/10 As mentioned, it plays a lot like To the Moon, an RPG-maker style game in which you do have free reign to explore the map and environment, but in which there is no combat. It also features numerous choices and decision points with branching plots and multiple endings, similar to a visual novel game. There are also numerous Mini-Games sprinkled in which help to break up the sometimes slow gameplay.
The game is often criticized for only giving the illusion of choice, but actually there are different outcomes in the end. Most of the endings are “imperfect” with some part of the game, some character, or some circumstance, always being unhappy in the end. This is also often criticized; but that’s the point of the game, which it tries to stress. Humans become victims of the choices they make.
For me, the ending I got was quite satisfactory. I won back my love, and the person that had done wrong to me over and over, the person that had been just moments ago in a position to redeem themselves but had chosen to continue to be a “bad person” well karma kicked their ass – one way or another, there’s a couple of different endings and ways in which they can be punished. I found it immensely satisfying that the tables had been turned so to speak.
The one caveat in the gameplay, and the reason I can’t in good faith give it a perfect 10, is that there are some (or at least one for sure) choices that if you don’t pick the “right” answer, you get a pretty shitty ending. I picked the “correct” choice because I wanted to “be the better person”. Despite what this other person had done to me, I wasn’t going to be a “monster” to them. There’s a lot of weight on this one choice at the very end of the game, which then it kinda makes me feel like the other choices in the game do not matter. No matter how good or bad you are up until then, it feels like if you do or don’t do this one thing, which then leads to another similar do or don’t do this one thing, then you get or don’t get the good ending. I don’t like that one choice being so weighted. But such is the nature of visual novel games; it is totally possible to get on/off of a certain branch in the plot just from one bad/good choice. Therefore, its not necessarily a fault of Always Sometimes Monsters, but perhaps a fault of this genre of games in general.
There are also SOME moments which are slow and bogged down in this game. Such as the box moving scenario which I mentioned at the beginning of my review. Some people exaggerate this element though. As I prefaced my review by saying, the gameplay is only as boring as YOU make it. You can quit these scenes at any time; you might not realize it at first, but it’s all about “free choice”. Move 10 boxes, or 100, or 1,000. Your call. But yeah, I will agree, some parts of the game are not terribly interesting; but, no where NEAR as bad as the negative reviews make this seem.
The other odd thing in gameplay is, does eating have any impact on the game? I don’t think it does, yet you have a hunger gage and you have in game currency and must eat and buy food. They say if you don’t eat and try to go to bed something bad might happen? Does anything bad really happen if you don’t eat? I don’t know.
Music 6/10: The music had a fun and funky retro vibe to it, which I really enjoyed. Ultimately though, it’s not very memorable. Just kinda average. It’s been about a year since I played the game now, and I can’t really recall any specific tracks from the game.
Graphics 7/10: The graphics also went for a retro feeling. I like RPG-Maker games and 16 bit games, so this is fine with me. But a lot of gamers may not really dig the retro style. I gotta give high marks for allowing you to customize your and your ex’s appearance and I feel the character art/portraits are quite good. The sprites themselves and the tile sets used in the world are sorta reminiscent of games such as pokemon, earthbound, or other 90s era RPGs. The sprites have a cutesy feel with big heads and very large eyes. The game environment is nice and colorful too. The area in which I feel it loses some points is that there are no what I call “CG” or “Event” scenes. Which are pretty common in almost all visual novels. These scenes are usually high quality still or panning camera shots, which show key moments with a more detailed and stylistic art style to help highlight certain scenes and events. This game doesn’t have any of those.
Customization 8/10: This game allows you to have same sex relationships if you would like. It also allows you to choose your race and gender and appearance of yourself, and your ex. Most of all, it gives you freedom to play the game the way you want, and make the choices you want to make; you just might have to live with the consequences of those choices later on.
Replay Value 5/10: This is a long, and sometimes slowly paced game, and the only time the plot branches significantly is at the end. This makes replaying not as much fun if you’ve already reached a satisfactory ending. However, I enjoyed this game and would say, it’s a title I could see myself replaying at some point, just because, I had fun. I mean, I have replayed completely linnear games with only one ending before lots of times too if I like the game. And Always Sometimes Monsters is a game I like.
Overall: 70 / 90 78% C+ “Good Game for Girls”