Always Sometimes Monsters is a unique RPG made by Vagabond Dog with publishing services by Devolver Digital. The price is $9.99, with sales available on Steam, and is available on PC. The aim of the game is to tell a story of choice and consequence that reverberates the human experience. The question is, does it succeed?
Story and Dialogue
The story follows your choice of character on a mission to get from east coast to west to see the ex of your choice. You’re flat broke, making the trip an almost epic adventure. This is the true beauty of this game. The story is a very real telling of what it is like to have an obstacle in front of you without having the luxury of being able to throw money at the problem. Finding a couch to sleep on feels like a blessing after having to sleep outside a few nights. As it should. The dialogue between characters comes off naturally and smooth compared to some other RPGs out there, and the colorful cast of characters never tend to filter too much. Playing the story of ASM felt very much like playing through an indie film, or a gritty show from FX or HBO, and the experience is an awesome one.
The game plays as well as any other game made with RPG Maker. Everything is solid in the fact that pushing buttons makes things happen. There is no reinvention of the wheel here as it is not needed. If you’ve played any RPG since the SNES you probably know how the controls feel.
The character portraits are nice to look at and the in game sprites are reminiscent of old school RPGs. The towns are a perfect size and layout being big enough to explore but small enough to remember where you’re going. Small details set off the overall feel of the game, whether it’s a stray piece of graffiti or campaign posters plastered around. The only problem I experienced was the floor looking like a curb once and I didn’t think I could walk any farther when I could.
Menu sound effects are a delicious 16bit variety, and the soundtrack absolutely shines here. It never got on my nerves and there are a few tracks on there that are solid arguments for buying the soundtrack.
This category is a tricky one. Always Sometimes Monsters is not necessarily a fun game. The mini games are a bit of social commentary or an in-joke. The game itself is not aiming to be fun or offering a new mechanic that could be manipulated for your own fun. The star of the show is the story and in that respect ASM is a blast. I have multiple replays planned for different actions and to see the different dialogues. The story wanted to share the human experience, and this is how I’ll judge the game in this category. ASM is the only game I can think of off the top of my head that made me reflect on my actual life. The final hour or so offered a story and series of choices that forced me to reflect on similar situations. I had my ending plotted out in my head before a few of the last elements played out, and once they did my game played out the opposite way. The game did not actively manipulate me into choosing something different, but the story put me into such a mindset that this happened anyway.
Always Sometimes Monsters is a beautiful experience. Beauty does not always mean pleasant or fun or joyful. ASM is a defining moment in the video games can be art argument. Not everyone will like it. Some typical gamers will flat out hate it. But if you’re not typical, and if story matters to you more than twitch reflex, then by all means buy this game.
Score: 5 – Buy Now