I'm going to start this by saying that I got the Humble Bundle as an early Christmas present and while trying to decide which one of its awesome games to play first, I set my hands on Always Sometimes Monsters just because it was an RPGMaker-made game (and I have a huge soft spot for their minimalistic supremacy). Also, this review is going to be an unusually long one for me because I haven't spazzed over a game of this category in so long, even if it looks pointless.
A crudely beautiful game, Always Sometimes Monsters is what they call "a life simulator", setting you up in one of the worst life scenarios possible: broke, jobless, homeless, loveless. Trying to fight back all the obstacles and win back the love of your life, you decide on your own destiny with every single option you make, which is the essential point of this game. All the elements of storyline, pixel graphics, and soundtrack construct step by step an immersive feeling into the plot, which is unfolded, again, with every step you take and every option you make.
The story starts off with an interesting allusion, which then brings you into the game experience itself. It's hard, it's stomach-churning, even far-fetched sometimes when striving over the edge to be real, but it never fails to serve its primary goal: life isn't meant to be easy. Gamers up for a good story will know this one isn't disappointing... until you reach the end of the game. With so many choices in-game it's nearly impossible to know you're doing what's right according to the game without a walkthrough (I am guilty of that, but solely because I wanted my love back), though this was an element that really hurt my feelings as I was suffering along with nearly everyone in the story, and even after replaying the game with different characters, I was still left quite confused and unsatisfied with the elements of the "eternal ending". The fact that the interpretations are left open for the player to make is a nice thought, but I still am not sure I enjoy this in games. Moreover, the small easter egg popular arcades are a nice touch, although most likely not replayable and serving their purpose for the image and only. (Swedish Pac-Man with meatballs anyone? Damn yes!)
Nevertheless, all the choices possible raise up this game's replayability for me, so I will definitely spend more time into it. I also have to congratulate the developers on their initiative to create a "character selection" box regardless of gender, race or sexual orientation, as well as on the implementation of the selection as a node into the allusion that starts it all. I also enjoy the fact that they actually put themselves in the game, since, in my opinion, their dialogues construct extra food for thought concerning the game. I know I'd love to do that if I was a game developer.
The average decent RPGMaker pixelly graphics are able to set up a real-like atmosphere in the city, combined with the morose darkness of the backstreets, but there's nothing else to say about them. As for the dialogues, they're captivating yet full of orthograph mistakes (and I really am someone who doesn't like being a grammar nazi) which should be fixed.
The soundtrack... What could I possibly say about the soundtrack?! Fresh, stylish, retro feeling while still modern enough, rinvigorating and immersive! Laser Destroyer Team outworked themselves on it and it's undoubtedly a fine piece of work. Every little piece or loop helps set the mood and captivate the player, it's really catchy. It's a nice thing the LP is available through Steam as a preview of their work, although it's really worth it to support them on their Bandcamp and get the EP and XP too (in all honesty, I'll always wish for a physical copy... Christmas wish found!). It's a complete and on the spot soundtrack.
Long story short, this game had a huge impact on me as I'm quite sure it has on many others. Intriguing storyline and graphics, smooth gameplay, disappointing ending, stunning soundtrack.
This game has made me question the severity a lot of things in life. There was one day I was at the supermarket and I saw a vagabond roaming around the aisles, so I stopped and thought just for a moment, what if that was me? It was actually another confidence boost to show myself that there is tougher stuff out there that can be overcome, and for that I couldn't be happier. I'll definitely replay this game more than once, because I really want to find all the secrets, and totally suggesting it to anyone who likes themselves a good story, so long as they can forgive the mistakes in its existence. This game has changed me and I'm grateful for that, and I'm really interested in clearing out anything hidden in the game. And who knows, "maybe I could translate the game for free"! Haha. Or probably make a comic about it. With a personally envisioned happy ending to satisfy those who didn't like the one in the game, haha.
Thank you sincerely for this little experience of a game.