Monster Loves You! (PC) review
"A Choose-Your-Morality adventure. Or maybe Choose-Your-Ethics? Maybe?"
I really believe that Monster Loves You! has a hard time making a consistent point about the moral choices presented in its story. I admit some discomfort about the duality of humanity … or in this case, monster-ality … but it all doesn’t add up to a satisfying experience.
I’ll quantify that: I can casually, even easily, unite monsters and humans for the prosperity of all. It takes about twenty minutes, maybe less. I remember feeling moderately pleased, until I realized just how easy it was to do, and how several different branching paths and monster types could bring me to the same conclusion.
Monster is a choose-your-adventure game, but it doesn’t allow you to peek at the pages to see how its going to turn out. You’re stuck with your choices, but there’s a twist, and its a snazzy one: Role Playing style attributes that you build with each choice. Good choices can add to your “Honesty” stat, but can subtract from your “Ferocity” or “Cleverness”.
I usually play my own personality type, but that’s beside the point – though actually part of it. I’d like to spend some time praising Monster before I get to ripping at its hide. There are moments of genuine charm to be found, but not as many as need to support “a dozen or so possible endings.”
Wait, I’m supposed to be positive. Let’s see … what’s not to love about the storybook artwork style, and the moving menus? There are recurring characters whose lives you affect and can even save, but the point of doing so is obscured by the need to get to the end of the game. Let’s talk mechanics.
You exist, as a monster and choose your way through as many as four phases of life. Born from a vat – which raises many questions about your parentage – interactions with other “morsels” provide some of your first statistics, and decide which adventures you’ll be choosing from in the future. After your morseldom, you become a monsterling, because failure isn’t yet an option. You have days to round out your attributes … the game is clear about this.
I guess I don’t get to discover that for myself. Radical Games … and, er, Dejobaan Games … get points for lore explanations, but flailing around a bit is part of the learning experience. Welp, enough of that, time to grow up. As an adult, you can’t outright change from a honest monster into a dishonest cheat, but that’s not going to matter much because you can anyway. It all depends on what your goal is.
That is, if you can manage to become an Elder. Each phase of life introduces a new social mechanic to your list of interactables. Monsterlings have other monsterlings to impress, so the first new social mechanic is given at adulthood: Respect. Yes, that is one of your base attributes too, which doesn’t make any sense, because you only need the respect of the Elders to become one.
Yes, that’s right, twelve days after becoming an adult, all of your interactions with monsters and humans will decide your fate. As your body softens, will you receive enough support fom the Elders to join their ranks? By your second playthrough you know enough to have adequate respect to really explore endings as an Elder. Maybe?
This my biggest beef with Monster: Any adventure doesn’t get you far enough away from a nearby narrative lane that you can’t easily jump them. Rolling dice on choices that are affected by an attribute, such as Kindness, means that you can still fail. Why aren’t all choices affected by your attributes? I mean, personally, I know mine are. This is where all of the carefully planned stories and adventures break down. What’s the point of exploring them if they’re all so closely related?
Are there really so few adventures you can have in a monster village, after all? I’m going to make a supposition: At the end of the game, you’re presented with your monster, who stands in the village of Elders. Alone. Where are all of the Elders you’ve met? The ones who supported you to become an Elder? Did the developers lose focus and patience at the end?
For all of its attentiveness, Monster Loves You! feels like an incomplete adventure. Was it possible that one of those human children you befriended remembered you? Tell us a little more about how prosperity worked out in the end! A paragraph would have done wonders to inspire the imagination.
As an Elder, you can influence the destiny of Monsterkind. Will you encourage mistrust? Hatred? War? Peace? Indifference? Will you go solo and try to make your own connection? Each carries a risk and reward, but are not supported by the imagination that brought it into being.
Do the developers know what inspired them to create this adventure? Do they know the power of the enthralled masses? I’m sure they do, but it may just have been out of their reach to inspire others. Too many choices and far too few adventures capped by a harsh binary branch path at the end that can derail all of your plans.
But what’s the big deal? It only took twenty minutes to get there. The problem is that if it didn’t matter enough the first time, it certainly won’t matter after that. If honesty made you what you are – as a monster – then how can you defy it so quickly? It all smacks of the unfairness of life, but is that the point of this adventure? I wonder if they know? Alright, time to put a bow on this.
This artwork oozes charm, literally at times, and has a distinctive personality that is infectous. I wanted to know more about the characters I interacted with. The music is suitable if ultimately forgettable. Having four stages of life helps to plan your future, even if it isn’t abundantly clear what you’re doing or why.
The “unpredictability” of life gets in the way of the narrative of this story. Is there truly no good? Does honesty only matter if you’re just honest to your own kind? When the game says you have claws, my monster should have claws. While there seem to be plenty of choices to make, there just aren’t that many adventures to explore the range of your agency.
Monster Loves You! is hard to recommend because of its flaws. The morality of death can be distorted, as any other, but Monster is hesitant to make a positive or negative declaration either way. If you’re curious about how the other side lives, this is an amusing distraction, but nothing more. Two steps short of the inspiring, memorable adventure you would share with friends and loved ones.
Community review by hastypixels (January 13, 2017)
At some point you stop justifying what you play and begin to realize what you're learning by playing.
If you enjoyed this Monster Loves You! review, you're encouraged to discuss it with the author and with other members of the site's community. If you don't already have an HonestGamers account, you can sign up for one in a snap. Thank you for reading!