There are myriad endings to Always Sometimes Monsters, a quirky role-playing experience from Toronto developer Vagabond Dog. My first ending was in the first two minutes; I didn’t even get past the prologue because of a decision I made.
This game is about choice, even if some of the options available to you might not seem ideal. You get to choose your protagonist and your love interest, but you don’t get to choose the circumstances in which the game really kicks into gear: lovelorn, jobless and evicted. If that wasn’t bad enough, you get an invitation to attend your ex’s wedding. There’s nothing going to keep you away from that.
The controls are simple: arrow keys to move around, space (or enter) key to interact and trigger dialogue options, and “X” to access your inventory. There’s no tutorial here, and in one of the many meta moments in the game, you can learn why from the game’s designers, Justin Amirkhani and Jake Reardon, who appear as characters here (look for them in the coffee shop). You can also visit the Vagabond Dog office, and if you take the $50 from the safe the way I did you can witness yet another ending.
Always Sometimes Monsters is a survival game, in a way. You need to eke out an existence, finding jobs and making money any way you can, not just to try and cover your outstanding rent, but to keep your stamina up. If you don’t eat, you can die in your sleep (that happened to me). When you do sleep, dreams fill in pieces of your story, giving you a bit of context for why things are the way they are.
With all that, you need to scrabble together enough to get across the country. There’s a wedding about to happen.
Mixed in with all this is some interesting social commentary about things such as corporate greed. There are also references to the state of affairs between journalists and public relations representatives that will have deeper meaning to those who work in those industries, but is likely lost on the average gamer.
The mini-games that make up good chunks of the game are hit and miss. What makes the melancholic Almost Sometimes Monsters stand out is the writing, which doesn’t shy from the complexities of life, or the desolation of living.
Developer: Devolver Digital