As kids, there’s a right of passage that at some point you’ll be afraid of monsters under your bed, in your closet, or outside in the backyard. We’re often further frightened by our siblings pulling monster prank scares on us when we least expect it. We grow up to be scared of them, until we realize that in the fictional creature sense, they don’t actually exist like we had thought. But what about the other side of that fence? What is the daily life of a monster and how they’re raised? Back in 2001, we were given a Pixar movie called Monsters Inc. that first showed us a plausible life of a monster. In 2018, we’ve been given a storybook game called Monster Loves You co-developed by Dejobaan and Radial Games that brings forth the adventure of a monster from birth until passing, and all the shenanigans that monster-life entails.
Monster Loves You brings players into a story-driven game about what it’s like to be raised as a fictional/fairytale monster. The choices made are the driving factor of the game, and every decision has influence on what kind of monster you’ll become and how you treat humans and fellow monsters. Are you a ferocious finger-eating monster, a bully to other monsters, or a kindhearted and gentle beast willing to forgive a child that’s wandered too far into the woods? With over a dozen endings and a plethora of decisions along the way to make, there are countless ways for the game to play out. Each unique ending also rewarded me with a cool sticker on the Main Menu. It had the completionist in me really wanting to see them all unlocked.
As a narrative focused game, I was continually impressed at the structure and writing style. The game is essentially broken up into chapters, each following the milestones of growing up. At first, you’re an amoeba trying to make some early decisions to ensure your survival and make it to being actually ‘birthed’ from the Monster vat pool. Next thing you know, you’re a monster kid, messing around with animals in the forest, and encountering human children, which you’re just as scared of as they are of you. You’ll continue through adolescence, adulthood, and finally end up as an elder monster. During each of these phases of life you’re given a screen with various icons to interact with and a timeline before your next growth jump. Each icon you tap starts a mini-adventure tailored to that stage of your life. Presented with options, much like a Choose Your Own Adventure book, you’ll determine how you want your monster to react to the circumstances at hand.
Most reactions and decisions will increase or decrease one of your main characteristics. These include: Bravery, Cleverness, Ferocity, Honesty and Kindness. It’s with this system that you form who your monster becomes in life, affecting outcomes with your reputation later as you grow up. Each adventure and every decision I made really kept me feeling connected with my monster, and I found myself enjoying playing the bad monster just as much as the compassionate one. In a game that is visually presented with just beautifully drawn static screens like a children’s book, I was pleasantly surprised at how engrossed I was within the narrative at all times. Sometimes in this genre you find micro-games are needed to hold player attention, but for me, not having any additional gameplay mechanics made this experience all the more positive by sticking to what it was doing best: storytelling.
A game like this is either made or buried on its writing. Monster Loves You never faltered in keeping me engaged with my monster, and making each of my decisions meaningful and a pleasure to take part in. Oftentimes the outcomes would surprise and delight me, and I loved the progression of the dialog as my monster grew up; my favorite being when the topic as an adult was “Politick With Monsters.” Humor is injected at every point in wonderfully crafted context, and thematically creates this monster society and village for you with ease.
With a lack of actual gameplay interactivity, Monster Loves You won’t be for everyone and can come off as a shallow game experience at face value. However, as an interactive storytelling experience, it’s something that shouldn’t be missed, providing hours of entertainment for all ages. My own feelings were incited at so many junctures in the game, from the excitement of childhood and playing with friends, to the difficult adult decisions that impacted others surrounding me. As my monster’s story came to an end, I felt emotional, even reminiscing of the memories I made, and pining over my final actions, especially those that would cement how monsters and humans felt toward each other.
Final Thoughts: GOOD
Monster Loves You is a carefully crafted storybook experience that works splendidly with the Switch, allowing controller or touch screen interfacing. It’s one of those games that’s great to be played as a bedtime story for your kids, or just on your own as you please. There’s a lot of endings, with even more decision outcomes in the heart of the game. Watching your monster grow up is a clever story arc and one with a lot of fun to be read along the way. With the price point of $9.99 at the time of this writing, I’d equate this to picking up a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book. There’s a lot of enjoyable reading here for the value.
Alex has been actively gaming since the release of the Nintendo. Turning passion into profession, he’s spent just over a decade in game development, and is currently the Creative Director at a studio.