Monster Loves You! is a thing.
It’s… yeah, it’s a thing. People who grab this title and open it up will find themselves making decisions for a monster-thing (which to be honest, never actually shows affection towards the player) that will allegedly influence its future and somehow the development of its personality. They’ll choose “adventures” at random, some of which are as trivial as “this person is being bullied, you should help them”, and others as trivial as “you are fighting with this person over what to have for dinner”. Less uninteresting ventures can be easily found in the Steam Store page description, so I’d presume they’re in the game somewhere, though nothing anywhere near as exciting as “Devour[ing] Little Red Riding Hood” was ever found on my screen in the two and a half playthroughs I’ve given this… thing. Somehow fitting into the categories Adventure, RPG and Simulation, I’m left with an overwhelming wonderment as I ask myself how in the hell Monster Loves You! has been considered a game at all.
It seems that the only actual goal for those who venture into Monster Loves You! is to successfully achieve all the possible endings, of which there are “a dozen or so”. However I cannot imagine a real-life person over the age of four actually being able to withstand the process of reading every boring paragraph and selecting every boring answer that you would hope gets you closer to every boring ending you desire “a dozen or so” times. I’m struggling to get motivated for a third playthrough right now because I don’t want to read through the same blocks of text in essentially the same fashion yet again. The repetitive gameplay–reminiscent of a choose-your-own-adventure book–is just a little drab and disappointing.
In my first playthrough, I took my time and chose what I honestly felt best for the situation; I didn’t deliberately act like a douchebag or irritatingly kind, just however seemed necessary, and this lasted about 35 minutes before quickly reaching the “Legend of Departure” ending. To follow this up, I rushed through the game in just under 10 minutes, choosing to ignore any opportunity for action possible, and ‘achieved’ the “Dissolve into Mediocrity” achievement. I am genuinely perplexed as to why there is so often an option to just ignore a given situation. Who would actually choose to just “return to the hovel” instead of undertake an adventure or take part in a discussion? Apart from an idiot like me, I mean. I’m beginning to think this is a deliberate move by the game to encourage me in my real life to forgo the urge to have lazy, lonely nights in the safety of my own home in favour of the more adventurous lifestyle, spending time with friends and making new ones to better myself and reach my true potential as a person, for the betterment of my own life and for those I come across in my travels on the pursuit of true happiness that we all find ourselves following. Or maybe it’s just stupid.
There is an odd sort of charm to Monster Loves You!, the kind that initially encourages you to overlook the all-too-present faults, until it becomes unconvincing and tedious. The backdrops are fairly appealing, with monster-villages and houses designed in a cute cartoon art style, but rarely do players get the chance to appreciate these images while actually getting anything done. Sure, you can waste time in between adventures and watch as the environment sits as motionless as yourself (unless you’re playing this while exercising, of course) if you’d really like, but I’d imagine you’d rather get things done, such as choosing a new adventure. Doing this brings up an obnoxious and fittingly cutesy, childish interface filled to the brim with words for you to narrate to yourself, and a series of restricted and often arbitrary options to choose from.
Although this entire title is based on the decisions you make for your monster (literally, that’s the entire thing), the actions that your monster actually takes have no lasting effects whatsoever. The only reason to choose particular options is to earn points that show off how brave/nice/clever/honest/douche-y you are, which are necessary to open up future options, and predicting how to act to receive certain points is a lost cause. I would have thought that showing fellow monsters how to find lichen to feast on would generate kindness points, but instead earned me +15 to cleverness. Choosing to compliment a proud hat-wearing monster so as to avoid hurting his feelings doesn’t earn kindness points as expected either, it just provides a neutral response. Which makes no sense to me. This happens fairly often, with points dished out willy-nilly, with neither rhyme nor reason at any time of season. I just rhymed without reason, see? How annoying is that? That’s how I feel. It’s impossible to tell if a douche-y action will earn you ferocity points or detract kindness points, and it constantly feels like you’re being punished and praised completely at random, and less like you’re developing your creature’s unique personality. Because you aren’t.
Between adventures you’ll spot your monster-thing standing stationary as it develops over time, sometimes with dorky little boots or octopus-inspired fins. Or both. Looking as your monster stands alone as if ostracised from his fellows feels much more depressing for me than I think it should. You’ll see no interaction between the… thing… that you are making choices for and the groups of… other things… and instead, it will just stand there. Monster Loves You! never feels like a life-simulation game, and should be more appropriately marketed as a choose-your-own-adventure novel-cum-computer program. Not quite a game and not quite a story, Monster Loves You! fails to engage and just barely entertains.
The only demographic I can imagine this title should interest (which, spoiler alert, is clearly not my own) are children playing with parents. I could picture a father reading to his daughter the predicament he is given and listing her available options, letting her own imagination and sense of moral rights or fun times take charge. I feel ridiculous for saying this, but the game details quite a lot of violence for this to actually be the target audience. I don’t understand who this title has been designed for or why, and I’m still wondering how someone messed up so much as to send this to me to be reviewed as a game. Personally, I spend more than half of my first playthrough waiting for the game to start, until, with horror, I realised that the question-answering was the game.
How Dejobaan, the team behind the fantastic AaaaaaAAAaaaaAaaaaAAAAAaa! (you know what I mean) was behind this, I have no idea. I can recommend you see a not-quite-a-story-and-not-quite-a-game, choose-your-own-adventure novel/computer-program reviewer, and see what they have to say. It’s more their area. Leave the video games to me.
Select Start Media was provided with a review copy of Monster Loves You! by Dejobaan Games.