When in need of a good dose of the warm-and-fuzzies (with just a hint of dark humor), look no further than Dejobaan Games’s Monster Loves You. A cute, kid-friendly take on daily life in monster land and the larger question of monster-human relations, this stat-building visual novel for the PC offers players the chance to become the very best of beasts – or the most monstrous monster who ever lived.
From slime you are born, and to slime someday you will return. The game begins with your birth in a big vat of green goo alongside a multitude of other monsterlings, and it is up to you whether you sink or swim. After making a few basic character creation choices and surviving a quick set of introductory decisions (will you save a fellow monsterling from drowning, or watch and see what happens next?), it’s time to climb up out of the goo and begin the real adventuring. The course of the game spans a full monster lifetime from birth to death; how long that lifespan lasts depends entirely on the choices you make as you progress.
Each choice made affects one or more of your monster’s personality traits, which include bravery, cleverness, ferocity, honesty, and kindness. Boosting certain stats affects what options will be available in future decisions, and whether certain trait-based actions will result in success or abject failure. Beginning decisions seem to determine, to some degree, what your monster will look like. In later stages of the game, choices also affect your monster’s respectability and, ultimately, will enable you to affect how monsters and humans view one another, leading the two sides into either peaceful prosperity or an all-out war.
Rather than following the more direct narrative approach found in most visual novels, the story in Monster Loves You is less of an epic quest and more of a series of episodic adventures with a vague, overarching sense of destiny. There’s no linear plot, and while a handful of recurring characters do keep the world cohesive and interesting (especially the enigmatic, three-eyed Scapegoat), very few decisions have immediately obvious consequences beyond increasing stats; most scenarios feel disconnected and random. This allows for a lot of freedom in terms of the order in which events are experienced, but also has the unfortunate side-effect of causing the game to feel a bit like a multiple choice quiz (albeit an amusing one) after a few playthroughs.
Monster Loves You definitely emphasizes the ‘novel’ in visual novel. Though the graphics look good (bright, cartoonish and fun) and some dynamic animation keeps the visual aspect from being completely static, most of the time you’ll be staring at text, and lots of it. Luckily, the writing is generally pretty entertaining, infused with a healthy dose of humor and classic fairytale references. The complexity of the scenarios and the consequences of decision-making grow with your monster in a well-paced, organic way, and a fairly impressive amount of possible endings certainly makes the effort of replaying worthwhile.
The music takes a similar approach, with beautiful results. As a monsterling you’re treated to fairy music gentle enough for a nursery, but as the in-game years pass tracks grow more intricate, eventually taking on a mythic tone worthy of a feat of heroism for the all-important Test of Ascension. At this point, your monster will either rise to the occasion and become an Elder or return to the slime from whence it came.
For fans of the genre, especially those with a soft spot for fantasy and children’s stories, Monster Loves You is going to feel a lot like the prize at the bottom of a cereal box you found when you were a kid – it might not last that long, but it’s shiny and new and fun, a guaranteed good time for as long as your attention span can hold out. But if you’re not into that sort of thing (too jaded, perhaps, or looking for something a little more engaging and a little less, well, wordy), you might want to think twice before buying.
Monster Loves You is currently available on Steam for $9.99.
[review pros=”Entertaining writing, kid-friendly, cute graphics, wide variety and quantity of scenarios and possible endings, smooth pacing, fun fairytale references, beautiful soundtrack” cons=”Scenarios feel oddly detached from one another, more text than visual elements, appeal may be restricted to kids and serious fans of the genre” score=85]