Review: Always Sometimes Monsters (PS4)

Review: Always Sometimes Monsters (PS4)

Platforms:

  • PlayStation 4
  • PC, Mac, Linux
  • iOS, Android

Platform/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4 Pro
  • HDTV

Extras:

  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • Move None
Title: Always Sometimes Monsters
Format: PSN (431 MB)
Release Date: October 10, 2017
Publisher: Vagabond Dog
Developer: Vagabond Dog
Original MSRP: $9.99 (US), €16.99 (EU), £13.99 (UK)
ESRB Rating: M
PEGI: 16
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
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Gameplay:
Always Sometimes Monsters is a game about life and the decisions we make. In an intriguing and unusual beginning, I was confronted with a strange choice right off the bat. Then, life happens.

Flash forward and my character, who I named Susan, wasn’t having the best of luck. Her partner left and money is tight, so much so that the landlord took the key back. The prospect of sleeping on the street quickly became a scary reality.

Susan needed some cash pretty quickly so I made her work in a Tofu factory. It was better than the alternative. I also got some money from a person outside a club so I could buy her some pills. I instead spent the money on some lotto scratch cards. After a lucky win, there was enough for the pills and some food. I saw another opportunity and got some cheaper substitutes, what harm could they do?

There are so many choices in Always Sometimes Monsters and some of them might seem like a big deal or inconsequential, at the time it’s hard to know. Even picking my character has an effect on others in the game.

There is an end goal that reminds me of a plotline to a summer romance movie. However, when I got stuck in the game I realized how wrong I was. There are so many things that happen, some of which felt uncomfortable and even horrible. There were moments that made me laugh and feel sorrow.

The monotony and drudgery of arduous work are mimicked to an obviously smaller degree in this experience. My obsessive tendencies still meant I made Susan work until there was nothing left to be done and her stamina had dropped to dangerously low levels, time to get some food and drink I guess.

Shall I grab a sandwich for the smelly homeless man who always hangs around the coffee shop or some dog food for the stray in the alley? I did neither and kept the hard-earned cash but instantly regretted my selfish choice and got food for them both. It’ll just have to take a little longer to save up the money Susan needs.

I needed to buy a ticket out of this depressing place but things once again spiraled out of control and friends needed my Susan’s help. I did what I could but as soon as there was enough money in the bank I went to the bus station and got the ticket. Did I make the right choice? People needed her and I made her bail on them.

I broke the game. Well, to be exact, my obsessive compulsion to see if a two-digit counter would get stuck on 99 or reset is what broke the game. It was a long and painfully dull task of repetition and in a bizarre twist of fate, the game froze at the number 69, apart from the music, which continued until the end of the track.

Luckily I had saved it just before and got it to the maximum count and then the game seemed upset with me, each menu and pop-up would take ages to appear. Some would take about fifteen seconds, which wasn’t fun.

I had to load another save to get it back to normal. A long time before and after that point the game would also crash with no rhyme or reason. Sometimes Susan would be depositing money at an ATM, another time she was browsing in a grocery store. Luckily, I’m a good saver (when it comes to games, not money) and never lost too much progress.

Controls are stupendously easy and a bit odd too, the pause menu is not accessed by pressing the standard Options button, instead, you have to press Triangle. Not a big deal, but even after many hours I still find myself going for the darn thing out of pure instinct.

Visuals:
Always Sometimes Monsters has a distinctive and classic art style that harkens back to the old days of gaming. Don’t let its simplistic and innocent veneer deceive you as this is a mature game that peeks into the lives of adult dilemmas, desires, and depravities sprinkled with a splash of humor that doesn’t always stick.

It felt like I was peering into these character’s lives through a metaphorical keyhole and on a few occasions, an actual one. The graphics do soften the blow of a few hard knocks but the impact still comes through enough.

As you might have noticed, the game doesn’t fill the entire screen, which is disappointing but I didn’t really notice after a minute or two. I did notice the text when I discover a collectible doesn’t always fit and some of the last characters are missing occasionally. This is something that could easily be fixed in a patch and doesn’t hurt the experience.

Audio:
There’s no speech in the game and I’m glad. It requires the player’s mind to conjure voices rather than a stellar crop of voice talent because I doubt the developers had the funds for that. The music and sound effects do a good enough job and are in keeping with the atmosphere and tone of the game.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is one player only with no online component.

Conclusion:
I adore Always Sometimes Monsters, it’s rare that a game pulls me in so much and I felt compelled to help my poor character, Susan. The writing isn’t perfect by any means but it’s solid enough to keep this narrative-driven game together and even deserving of one or two more playthroughs.

Even with the bugs and glitches I heartily enjoyed the experience. I continually doubted the decisions that I had made and wondered how differently things would have gone if I had chosen another path. It might not change your life but it might make you consider a few things differently and it isn’t often that a game can do that.

Score:
7.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

Written by Chazz Harrington

Chazz Harrington

You can find me on everything: PSN, Twitter, Wii U, Origin, Steam, etc using my universal ID: ChazzH69

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