Sweetest Monster Review
Platforms: PC(Reviewed), Mac, Linux
Publisher Sekai Project
Sweetest Monster is a brief kinetic visual novel centered around Robin Hawking, a middle-aged primary school music teacher whose life had recently fallen into a rut. With his marriage going through a “rough patch”, his daughter becoming increasingly distant to him, and his job starting to both claw away at him and become far less stable than he once assumed. Distraught by his unfavorable situation, he finds himself wandering through the rural English town he lives in and encounters Bell, a teenage catgirl who claims to have a history with Robin, and to have fallen in love with him many years ago. A fact that she makes clear over the span of the story, as she regularly makes her way into his life, and engages in increasingly… intimate activities with him.
What ensues is a story that sounds adjacently similar to the wide number of visual novels that primarily exist as a method of delivering fanservice and titillation to a primarily male player base, but Sweetest Monster takes things into a different, darker, and more adult direction. This is achieved through a number of ways, thought he most obvious of which is the main characters themselves, Robin and Bell.
Robin is a very flawed person, one who tries to be a good and decent man, but struggles with matters he does not understand, and is ultimately led astray for his desire for affection during a difficult patch of his life. One where he feels trapped in the confines of his own responsibilities while being painfully aware of his age and distance from his own youth. Which is neatly contrasted by Bell, an even more flawed person who is free from the inhibitions of being a good person and represents a youthful sense of freedom. She is very much the dominant one in their relationship, but is never that forceful, instead choosing to gradually nudge Robin closer to her, toying with him while he becomes less and less resistant to her youthful charms.
As the story goes on, their relationship becomes increasingly deviant and, due to Bell’s physical age, a bit uncomfortable. Yet at the same time, it is oddly grounded. The characters are believable in their actions, their flaws are never so much as abnormal, and the setting is both realized and realistic. It is a tiny thing, but the details about the unnamed town, how it has changed over the years, the faults it developed, the internal politics of Robin’s workplace, and its British setting are all very welcome details that further add to the uniqueness and enjoyability of the story.
It is a solid narrative that is well paced and told, kept me regularly invested and interested in what direction it would take as things progressed. It is largely quality stuff, but I did walk away from the story with two gripes. Firstly, the writer initially makes Robin’s wife, Sally, come across as a bit of the unsympathetic and passive aggressive sort, disrespecting her husband to an extent where I thought that the story would take a far more violent and radical direction later on.
Secondly, the ultimate conclusion to the story is satisfying enough, yet it lacks the same punch that I believe the writer intended it to. It was relatively easy to predict, yet simultaneously raises a large number of questions that, even through an epilogue scene, the story fails to answer or even casually address before concluding with a strangely open ending. It honestly felt that the story stopped more than it properly concluded, leaving open enough possibilities and narrative potential to constitute a sequel, though I am doubtful that such a follow-up will ever happen.
Meanwhile, the presentation is given a painterly look with detailed backdrops that look to be inspired by the English countryside, yet also do a good job at conveying the tone and mood of its locales, primarily through the lighting applied to them. While the character sprites, which are limited to only representative Sally and Bell, picture the characters in great detail offering them a wide array of expressions, and even outfits in the case of Bell. It is a bit spartan, only featuring as many backgrounds and CGs as it needs for the sake of the story, but what is there enhances the story and overall atmosphere of the title.
Sweetest Monster is a compelling and slightly bizarre visual novel that boasts a novel premise, engaging characters, and just enough of a unique tone and approach to the subject matter to make the whole thing a lot more interesting than I initially thought it would be. It is certainly not up there with my favorite visual novels, but it is a pleasant and dark little treat that I would recommend… Well, keeping in mind that there is something bordering on underaged nudity in the game, regardless of what the game’s introductory disclaimer states.