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Indie Spotlight: Always Sometimes Monsters

by Graham Taylor

I’ve walked beside Ethan Mars on his quest to save his son. I’ve voyaged the galaxy aboard the Normandy. I’ve survived biters while traversing the post-apocalyptic American south. I’m no stranger to making hard choices when it comes to games.

But Always Sometimes Monsters presented me with something a little different--a game that let me define my own morality in a realistic setting. Just how far would I go for someone I loved?

You are not a hero in Always Sometimes Monsters.

You are just an everyday person, down on their luck.

From the start of your game, you only goal is to make it across the country in 30 days before your former lover gets married. The choices you make in this gloomy 8-bit RPG will shape your experience, and every little situation can quickly become something big.

There are four towns you have to make it through in order to reach the wedding in time. Each town provides different characters and challenges for you, and it is up to you to find some way to move on.

Gameplay is very basic, playing more like a visual novel than an actual game.

Needless to say, it’s slow.

The majority of the time is spent wandering around town, picking up odd jobs for money and interacting with NPCs to advance the plot. This can range from spending time with a little old lady, running drugs, or becoming involved in government conspiracies. While some of these may seem a bit convoluted and silly, they fit in with the setting and story just fine simply because the game is set in a world grounded in reality. Sure, it’s not everyday you hear about rigged elections; but you do hear about them.

Sometimes the walking and talking is broken up by some very simple mini-games, but these are spread few and far between. Either way, Always Sometimes Monsters is driven by story and consequence.

The game takes a very serious tone, exploring themes of cause and effect. It’s very dark, with pockets of light here and there. Depending on how you play and the choices you make, it can get downright depressing.

Is this for the greater good?

Does the end justify the means?

Am I the monster?

The actions you take to answer these questions have consequences, and, for better or for worse, these consequences will come back to haunt you. Always Sometimes Monsters is not fun. And that’s fine.

It is simply trying to tell a story, and you tag along to help write it.

The gameplay and visuals may be lacking (the game was made with RPG Maker after all) but it excels everywhere else. The story, while somber, is still well written and interesting enough to keep you engaged, worth seeing through to the end.

Always Sometimes Monsters is not a game I can recommend to everyone. Its dismal themes, dreary atmosphere, and minimalistic gameplay simply will not be entertaining for some. But if you enjoy a good story and don’t mind taking a ride on an emotional rollercoaster, Always Sometimes Monsters is a choice you will not regret.

Image Sources: VagabondDog