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Always Sometimes Monsters: Always ambitious, sometimes tedious

Hayden Dingman | June 2, 2014
I don't think Always Sometimes Monsters is a great game. It has a lot of problems. There are times when it's extremely unclear what you should do next or where you should go.

Always Sometimes Monsters

Welcome to my horrific, Kafkaesque nightmare. Upon arriving in the town of Beaton, only a few dollars to my name, I was offered a job moving boxes from a conveyor belt to the back of the van. The supervisor, a burly fellow named Red, said if I could clear out the inventory he'd recommend me for further work in the future.

But there's no end in sight. I've moved 96 boxes to the back of this van, according to the sign on the wall. The game gave me the option to quit after the first box, but I'm determined. I walk mindlessly back to the conveyor belt, grab another box, make the long trudge back to the van. 97. 98. 99. 100.

Wait a second. The counter on the wall refuses to roll over again. It's stuck on 99. I move Box 101. Nothing. The sign still says 99. I move box 102. The sign mocks me.

That's it. I'm done. I walk over to the supervisor. "I didn't figure you for a quitter," he says. He's right. I move another twenty boxes, hoping that it's a trick on the part of the game designers. Maybe there's really an end.

There isn't. I just spent half an hour moving fake boxes across a fake warehouse, loading this precious digital cargo into a fake van. This, ladies and gentlemen, is Always Sometimes Monsters.

Choice matters
Kierkegaard. Sartre. Camus. These are names I never thought I'd reference in regards to a review, and yet here we are.

First, let's get this out of the way: Always Sometimes Monsters is not necessarily a fun game, nor is it necessarily a game you need to play. I didn't enjoy its meta-commentary nearly as much as, say, The Stanley Parable, and a lot of the game is flat-out boring—sometimes seemingly by design, other times not so much. Many of the problems are a direct result of the limitations of RPG Maker, the development-in-a-box tool used to make the game—slow dialogue prompts, awkward tile layouts, generic-looking characters, and tedious mini-games all rear their heads here. Another big problem is that the first half of the game is loaded up with content, while the second half feels comparatively brief and sparse.

But in Always Sometimes Monsters we get what is essentially an existentialist text in game form. Do choices matter? Can life have a meaning? Is there such a thing as fate? These are some heavy questions for a game, and while the writing is not always deft enough to hold all the weight here, it's an admirable attempt.

 

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