Meg’s Monster: You Will Believe a Fiend Can Cry
Follow a subterranean monster tasked with protecting a human child who has mysterious doomsday powers
Emotional content in video games has been a big topic as of late. It seems like everyone in the industry wants to write the next critically acclaimed tearjerker. Alas, the way they've tried to achieve this is using a conventional video game story and then killing off half the cast, using the blunt instrument of death to compensate for their inability to actually connect with the player.
Into this environment comes Meg's Monster, an RPG that focuses on the growing bond between two extremely unlike individuals. It's not the first time someone has tried to make such a narrative work, but I've never seen it done with as much care as this.
An Unlikely Pair
Deep beneath the Earth’s surface is an Underworld populated by monsters. Few humans know of the Underworld, probably because the ones who travel down there end up as lunch. Nevertheless, there is a very uneasy arrangement between the world of humans and monsters: neither meddles in the affairs of the other and no one travels between the two worlds.
Among the monsters is an ogre-like brute with an unusual diet. He goes by “Roy,” mostly because his friend — the not-at-all-suspicious Golan — calls him that. One day, while gathering the “Magic Tar” that is his sole form of sustenance, Roy finds a young girl named Meg who has miraculously survived a fall into the Underworld. Meg is pretty unusual herself — things take a terrible turn when she cries. Golan identifies her as the “Harbinger of Ruin” and insists that the world could end if she isn’t kept calm.
Thus begins an adventure that sees Roy and Golan trying to return Meg to the surface while keeping her happy — a tough task for the perpetually grouchy Roy. In this game, to further add to this enjoyable plot, everyone — human and monster — carries secrets with them, and Roy is going to learn some shockers on his quest.
Keeping the Apocalypse at Bay
Meg’s Monster features recognizable RPG mechanics, but it isn’t a conventional RPG by any stretch. Roy is an absolute menace, blessed with a wall of HP that means that most enemies aren’t a threat to him. However, the stress of combat distresses Meg. It’s Game Over if her emotional state takes a dive. Winning fights means using toys to distract Meg, all to prevent her from triggering the apocalypse.
There’s variation in the enemies, and many fights vary from this basic formula. There are, however, bosses that introduce unique concepts. Some bosses have special attacks that force the player to complete a mini-game to avoid taking damage. There are even a few fights that offer special combat options that can help Roy gain an advantage or nullify an enemy’s abilities. These twists and turns, even in combat, help fights from becoming stale.
As a fair warning, there are enemies later in the game that deal enough damage that they can kill Roy the old-fashioned way.
The fights (apart from some tutorial battles at the very beginning) are designed so that they require a carefully thought-out strategy to complete. There’s no randomness in the fights, no item management, equipment, or grinding — beating a boss means figuring out what you need to do. This makes Meg’s Monster feel like an RPG/puzzle hybrid, though it’s a little more forgiving than such games usually are.
A Character-Focused Story
Really, the mechanics aren’t the selling point here. Meg’s Monster is all about the story and characters — and here it really shines, because the writing is well above average.
Meg’s Monster is not a long game — you can finish it in about four hours if you understand the mechanics — but there’s a lot packed in to that brief timeframe. Just about everything you know at the start turns out to be a lie, but don’t expect the usual RPG neck-breaking plot twists. Even when the story misdirects the player, it still feels fair. Play through a second time and you’ll see that the true plot was right in front of you the whole time.
I think one reason this works is because the story of Meg’s Monster focuses a lot more on the characters than most RPGs do.
The genuine conflict here is internal, with tough, grumpy Roy trying to figure out how to care for a human child. You might have guessed that this game was going to be a bit of a weeper, and you’d be correct. However, unlike most games that set out to be tearjerkers, Meg’s Monster doesn’t rely on cheap, manipulative narrative tricks. If you feel anything, it’s because the developers did their job properly.
It can even be funny when it wants to, none of the constant doom and gloom of some similar titles.
Add in the high-quality sprite work, detailed and varied areas and music that perfectly suits the mood and you have something that’s bound to be memorable.
Really, I have a hard time thinking of any criticisms. I’m not usually a big fan of story-first games, but this one has enough mechanical heft it feels like a game and not just a plot delivery device. The “emotional” games I’ve seen in the past (including a few critic’s darlings that will go unnamed here) have never impressed me, but this one does the job very well.
If you’re the least bit curious, then give it a shot and venture into the Underworld.
Meg’s Monster is a short, plot-driven RPG that follows a subterranean monster tasked with protecting a human child who has mysterious doomsday powers. I strongly recommend this game for anyone who enjoys an emotional, character-focused story.
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