Meg’s Monster Review
A Girl and Her Grue
There is something to be said for the little games, the short games, the games that manage to deliver an outsized punch for the package they present. Such is the case with Meg’s Monster, a new story-focused RPG for Steam, Switch, and Xbox One. While being light on many of the gameplay aspects of the role-playing genre, it makes up the balance with its well-crafted narrative.
Meg’s Monster has its protagonists in the title. The monster, Roy, lives a quiet life in a literal hole in the earth, munching away at things best left undescribed, when a young girl falls into his life through the trash chutes from the world above. As the average human life expectancy in the Underworld is roughly “until lunchtime,” Roy isn’t about to care whether little Meg survives any longer than that, but that all changes the first time she started to cry. The air around him grows hot as the fires of hell, and it all comes within a child’s breath of the end of the world before he and his friend Golan can calm her down. And thus comes the main plot hook: if Meg cries too much or too long, then it’s Game Over for the world.
On paper, this game would seem to be an odd combination of plot beats from things like Undertale and Monster’s Inc., but the mixture gels perfectly as the narrative progresses. This is essential, since the majority of the game is the narrative. There is very little in the way of interstitial material, with Roy going from scene to scene, interacting with the monsters of the Underworld and searching for a way to get Meg back up to the surface and her mom before she cries one time too many. It is far more of a narrative adventure game with RPG battle interludes, which makes the story ever more important. I have played forty-plus-hour games with less plot and character development than Meg’s Monster.
Combat eschews minor enemy encounters in favor of what would be, in most RPGs, major boss battles. Even for a monster, Roy is an absolute tank, with all five digits of his HP counter maxed. Most enemies cannot do more than scratch him up, but that isn’t the danger in battle. Much of the time, he’s defending Meg from attack, and while nothing can actually touch her while he’s in the way, her emotional resolve suffers as she watches him take damage. If her heart gauge is brought down to zero, representing true panic and distress at Roy’s pain, then she bawls her eyes out. This is a real threat for most battles, and so several scenes throughout the game are dedicated to Roy and Golan searching for things to use to distract Meg: a toy rocket, a soccer ball, crayons, playing cards, and a picture book. These items are all single-use per battle, restoring some of Meg’s resolve and sometimes providing extra benefits to attack or defense.
Roy himself gains defensive and offensive capabilities as the plot progresses. He is able to stock up physical force on every round wherein he does not attack directly, and then can use one or more stocked points to unleash stronger attacks later on. This is especially important in battles where Meg is not present, since those enemies tend to hit hard enough that even Roy has to pay attention. Many battles also include plot-related gimmicks or boss tricks to use or avoid, and sometimes with mini-games attached. None of the battles are insurmountable, though some may seem that way at first. Success requires the player to make use of everything at Roy’s disposal to achieve victory.
The graphical style of Meg’s Monster finds itself at the intersection of classic SNES or GBA sprite graphics with the scene-setting of an SVGA computer adventure game, and doing a better job at it in all ways. Every character sprite is gorgeously rendered and expressive, and the backdrops are detailed in little ways that speak of an artistic touch. Again, this is a game that was made to convey a story, and the graphics do a bulk of the lifting when it comes to mood and action. Likewise, the music sets the mood for the scenes, with all the timing and focus of a movie soundtrack. Whether a character theme, background music for a locale, or a combat anthem, the tracks fit like a hand in glove.
So, Meg’s Monster is not a long game. It could have been, and substantially longer at that, but its creators chose to focus on the presentation of the narrative by paring away all non-essentials, and what is left is an adorable and occasionally heart-wrenching story of loss, regret, and found-family issues with fun combat and puzzle interludes. While it only takes a few hours, the blend of narrative, plot-essential battles, and occasional puzzle elements was fun to work through. Anyone in search of a short but satisfying experience should consider this one at some point.
Disclosure: This review is based on a free copy of the game provided by the publisher.
Interesting and interactive combat system
Gorgeous and emotive graphical style
No non-essential battles
Not much between major plot points