When a game removes most of the gameplay elements from itself and focuses on its story and choices, the story has to stand up to scrutiny. Does it make sense? Harness emotions? Involve and engage the player? Did it take you on an unforgettable ride? Best Month Ever! puts in place a fascinating story but it doesn’t quite land the punches it wants to, leaving you somewhat confused in the process.
You’ll play as single mum Louise and her 8 year old son Mitch in 1960s America. Louise learns she is dying and decides to find Mitch a new home to grow up. Across 12 chapters, you’ll face all your past demons and more awkward situations as sexual abuse, racism, seedy bosses, killers and even a tornado is thrown at you to test your nerves. The dialogue choices you make, will in turn give Mitch personality traits that will play out in one of nine endings as Mitch’s life epilogue. I love the premise as Mitch’s life will play out based on your actions although it was a shame that all the choices seem to boil down purely to an epilogue.
Mitches personality can be affected by lawfulness, confidence/power and social skills. If you choose to break the law, his lawfulness drops for example. Often dialogue choices will boost one trait and reduce another – often boosting social skills will reduce confidence and power because you are conforming to society. It’s a nice trade off and reminds me heavily of Telltales’s “X will remember that” as each choice visually shows the change. You will play as Mitch too at times, often performing quick time events, although these are skippable and little to the gameplay drama.
Storywise though, Best Month Ever! is a mixed bag. It tackles some really heavy subjects but does so in a boxy, self contained and often disjointed manner. You’ll move from a scene about sexual assault to a longer scene around throwing rocks or slice of life conversation. Then you’ll hit a different social taboo or harrowing issue and then immediately hit a different conversation. Nothing flows very well and the tonal shifts jar. Mitch, your son, also seems to act in ways that don’t follow the story narrative nor how you’ve played up to that point. I was law abiding and passive and then randomly, he’ll pick up a gun and wave it at police despite nothing beforehand suggesting this would be a desired action from Mitch or Louise. Other moments, like seeing people shot dead regularly in front of Mitch seem like water off a ducks back. He acts like nothing has happened but later, it is suggested he knew everything that was going on all along. It just doesn’t gel.
From an action perspective, Best Month Ever! also suffers from trying to tackle too many issues. SPOILERS FOR THIS PARAGRAPH ONLY. In a three hour run time (admittedly very replayable to choose different options), we touch on the KKK, child abuse, family gaslighting, robbery, a tornado, a family locking mothers in their basement, a snake bite, a shaman journey, various reveals of daddy issues and of course the main plot that Louise is dying. Almost all of these issues could sustain a three hour deep dive narrative with ease but instead we barrel through scenarios that almost never connect and we barely stay with any subject matter for a meaningful time period.
Graphically, the game has a mosaic oil painting feel which looked lovely in sunsets and water but some environments were very dark and murky. Musically, the smooth jazz numbers worked a treat and largely the voice acting cast do a good job. Louise and Mitch both deliver their lines without falling flat. In many ways, its the hope that there’ll be some lasting connection through the voices that pulls Best Month Ever! through as the graphics purposefully lack detail of facial expression.
Whilst the story didn’t hit the marks for me, the game gets marks for trying to do something different. It has style and a skewed substance to it and I found myself engaged whilst playing just to see what bizarre situation would happen next. Ultimately, I left a bit tired, confused and thinking that if the story lost a few elements and focused on its key narrative drivers, it’d have been a more cohesive and meaningful experience.
Review copy provided by publisher.
Best Month Ever!
Cramming in too much into a concise story left this player feeling disconnected from the emotional trauma. Interesting ideas though!
A unique perspective in story driven gaming which I appreciated.
Nine endings, all driven by your choices.
Good soundtrack and voice acting.
Story trips over itself trying to sell edgy and trauma filled experiences without giving them the space to breathe and affect the player.
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