Ultra-Indie Spotlight Sunday: A Monster’s Insight Has You Experience Life In A Monster World
A Monster’s Insight takes place in the Outerworld, some kind of infernal dimension of eldritch horrors. You play as a fledgling creature known only as the Silver-Tongued. Aptly named, as besides your ability of “insight,” the Silver-Tongued survives and thrives by words. This game is about challenging superior beings, the Great Terrors of the Outerworld, to a battle of wits, with the goal of gaining a piece of their soul. Or as developer Arkicade says: “gaslight eldritch horrors or die trying.”
Any fan of the genre knows that there’s more to horror than just being scared. There’s an aesthetic, an atmosphere, a mood. Sure, we all love a good game where a killer or creature chases you about. But why not explore the life of that creature too?
The premise of A Monster’s Insight clearly is inspired by all manner of cosmic horror. But rather than place you in the position of a 1910s detective or similarly naive mortal, you take the role of one of this eldritch plane’s denizens. You get to experience this alien plane, not as a human going insane, but as a creature who is simply trying to survive their day to day life.
Non-Wanky Game Recap:
A Monster’s Insight is about conversation and debate. Suffice to say, gameplay is dialogue based. Your character finds themself in the audience with some kind of cosmic being. Your job is to convince it to let you nibble a bit of its soul. There are a number of different paths you can take, where you character might specialize in knowing much about the Outerworld, or you might invest in the intimidate stat, and try bullying the god-like creature. Either way, there’s dialogue aplenty, enough to warrant several playthroughs.
The atmosphere alone is a thing to behold. Each screen of A Monster’s Insight is a beautifully painted visual, ranging from the Otherworld landscape as seen from your eldritch apartment, to the Great Terrors themselves, grotesque and horrible. Music too is expertly done, with an eldritch lo-fi OST.
Where A Monster’s Insight really shines, however, is the story and writing. The dialogues with the great ones are interesting and, wouldn’t you know it, pretty insightful too. Lots of thought went into how these conversations work, and often the game ends up feeling like you’re conversing with a terrible cosmic Nietzsche. Or if you’re a baby brain like me, it feels like you’re conversing with a terrible cosmic script of Tenet, where all you can do is keep clicking dialogue options and hope the creature doesn’t consume you.
The game’s pacing could be better. The tutorial for A Monster’s Insight especially went on a bit longer than I would have liked. But at the same time, I realize you need to spell out everything for dumb dumb gamer brains.
The only other thing that I didn’t love was the “insight” mechanic. Dialogue games work because they allow the developer to disclose info to you not only through the person you’re conversing with, but also the replies. A Monster’s Insight has some sequences where you can change the direction of the conversation by typing in a word previously mentioned. There is a list in the notebook of relevant words, but you only have the option to type in one.
How To Fix It:
I appreciate that A Monster’s Insight had this mechanic, especially one that rewards paying close attention. However, as previously stated, I am a baby brain and need my hand held. Being able to select from words again at my leisure might have been a better fit for me. But that’s just me. This is far from a big issue, and the game is perfectly fine as is.
As games like Dead by Daylight and Tender Offer show us, often it’s interesting to see horror from beyond the angle of the victim. Exploring the mind or world of the creature or killer is just as fascinating an experience for a horror game, and on top of that, one that’s novel. A Monster’s Insight does all this and more, with amazing art in it to boot. Developer Arkicade has created a masterpiece in just about every regard, and hopefully there is more AMI content or other games like it on the way.
You can play A Monster’s Insight for free on itch.io by clicking here.