From Man-Eater Games, Monstrous Lovers drops us into a modern world where humans and monsters live side by side less than harmoniously. Disillusioned by his current paper-pushing position at the Office of Integration, Christopher puts in for a transfer to Saint George, a city mostly populated by monsters. His original goal is to try to make a difference, but if he happens to find love among the attractive monsters he shares his new home with along the way, then so be it.
An advance review copy of this game was provided by the developer and a request was made through the VN Game Den review request form.
This game is terribly cute on the surface with a lot of heart and real conversations about complex matters underneath. The art is bright and cheery and lends itself well to the office romance vibe the game is cultivating. The monster designs themselves aren’t anything new and exciting. They’re pretty standard vampire, werewolf, and mummy looks, though the addition of an android is an interesting turn. They’re very aesthetically charming, though. The Spanish voice work makes it a little harder for this Anglophone with only an intermediate understanding of the language to fully judge the quality of the acting. However, the voices themselves in timbre and physicality are perfect. The overall feeling of the characters is fun, and they’re all wonderfully likable in their own way. There’s an endearing, boyish quality to all of them and there’re no implications that these are people to be feared even the slightest.
Whether intentional or not, this simple visual choice toward softness and familiarity pairs extremely well with some of the underlying themes of monster oppression and societal integration. You, as a player, are left with this notion of “why would anyone hate these guys?” just to face that, no, indeed, the rest of the world in which they live does not feel the same as you do. It’s an extremely clever metatextual integration.
It’s not a very kinetic game as far as visual movement. There’re very few if any facial expressions to speak of and very limited sprite movement, though there is a lot of body movement. The sprites change the way they feel on the screen with shifting silhouettes. At no point does it ever really feel stagnant, though. The writing is fast and snappy without losing you along the way. That means you’re moving between physical settings relatively quickly, and it feels nice.
Overall, it has an excellent efficiency of storytelling both visually and textually. The lore isn’t complex, but you’re dropped into it effortlessly. Here’s a world. There are monsters. You’re not one of them. These are the struggles that everyone is dealing with. It’s a very human story set in a city with few humans in it. There’s not really a lot of raw asset work, either, when you examine it from a technical perspective. They seem to really grasp the structure of their own story, though, and understood how to make the most of what they’re working with. It never feels visually boring.
The only complaint I can conjure is that I got one of the bad endings so easily. It offers a lot of choices in the relatively short runtime for a playthrough, which is a lot of fun. I did feel a little short-changed in that first run through because I didn’t feel like I left the game with an understanding of why my choices led to what they did. After subsequent playthroughs, though, the pattern was a little more obvious. Then I really appreciated how much impact on the story a single choice actually made. So while, at first, there’s a level of frustration because you want to kiss the cute boys, it really ends up feeling wonderfully organic in the end.
Sincere while still being lighthearted and fun, Monstrous Lovers is a delightful romp through a world that, at its core, is really not that much different than our own. It plays with identity, belonging, and goal seeking, all with a grounded gracefulness that shows a real, earnest approach to creating a lovely little play experience.
It’s available in English and Spanish for purchase on Steam with a release on itch.io forthcoming as of this writing.