Review: Monster Loves You!

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I was always a big fan of those old Choose Your Own Adventure books where pages would end with a choice that would send you off on different plotlines. The whole visual novel genre feels like the perfect place to revive stories like that, but it hasn’t really happened in any conspicuous way. Monster Loves You! is like a lot of those little adventures and choices rolled into a big, gooey, adorable ball, which is probably why I found it so engrossing. It’s not quite on the level of those literary odysseys of old, but its monstrous heart is in the right place.

The game cold-opens with you being formed in a spawning pool, as all monsters are. Through some initial choices you set the foundations for what kind of monster you’ll become, and learn a little about the monster life cycle. From these sticky beginnings you guide your monster though childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and beyond by making decisions during key events in their life. These decisions affect a number of stats which define your monster, and later in life determine what they are capable of and what kind of ending they can achieve.

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This might sound a bit heavy so let’s dial it back to the part where you’re eating garbage and scaring goats. All of these life-altering decisions come in the midst of monsters chewing on each others’ heads, pranking each other, and screaming until their ears bleed. The quirky, friendly tone of the writing makes it clear this is a cartoony take on life (as if the vibrant art didn’t give it away), and also takes the pressure off of making bad decisions. Nearly everything you do will raise at least one of your stats, though there are rare choices that do nothing or even lower stats a tiny bit.

Your monster is scored by percentage on their Cleverness, Honesty, Bravery, Ferocity, and Kindness. Presented with dilemmas like tricking, scaring, or helping a friend should lead to obvious increases in the corresponding stats. That’s actually one thing I want to commend Monster Loves You! for, how clear the results of a choice will be from how it’s presented. Other visual novel adventures like Vlad the Impaler don’t really give any clues as to how a scene will affect you but all the choices here feel very well telegraphed, enough to easily max more than one stat without any prior knowledge. And once a stat is maxed, it opens up some new options depending on the situation.

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Mechanically, there’s very little else to the game besides making text choices. Each stage of your life has a number of days to while away, and on each of those you choose an activity. Activities are shown only as icons so you’ll never be sure what’s going to happen until you’ve been through them once before, a bit of a contrast from how clear the actual choices are. At the end of the third stage (adulthood) there’s a check to see if you can proceed to the final stage, which offers some additional choices and a proper conclusion to the story of the monsters as a whole. It’s all quite gratifying to work through, really, given how much thought and detail was put into constructing the monster world and society.

Running though one monster life should only take 30 to 40 minutes, and after that you’ll pretty much be chasing endings and achievements. It won’t take you long to recognize the same events coming up and start clicking through them madly so don’t bank on a ton of replay value here. There is value to be had, though, in the charming writing and visuals that welcome you to the strange and wonderful world of family-friendly monsters. As long as you’re not expecting anything sprawling or epic, Monster Loves You! is a fine little diversion that brings back the charm of choosing your own adventures.

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