Point and click adventure games are a dime a dozen in the indie community. Whether a humorous yarn or a heartfelt story, each is most capably judged by its writing and immersive experience. Best Month Ever! falls into the latter category as we take a road trip with Louise and her son Mitch as she spends the last month of her life teaching her son life lessons, whether she intends to or not.
As a parent of a young child myself, the premise resonates with me. Immediately, I reflect on myself: What would I do if I had one month left with my kid? What lessons would I want to teach her? Like most events in life, each has pros and cons, which is the bulk of Best Month Ever!’s gameplay. Each decision and dialogue choice can increase or lower one stat that shapes Mitch’s adulthood (the ending): confidence, relations, and righteousness. One of the game’s selling points is its nine endings, which are brief autobiographical narratives from adult Mitch about the road he walks based on each stat.
For those wanting to “catch ‘em all,” Best Month Ever! takes about three hours to complete and probably less clicking through on repeat. Overall, it has twelve chapters that comfortably segment each leg of the journey. Consider these mini-episodes along the way, in which chapters provide sometimes over-the-top life experiences for our two protagonists.
Fans of Adaptation., an actually good Nicholas Cage movie, will note that something of significance needs to happen in movies (or any story, really). Initially, I balked at each extraordinary event’s ridiculous, excessive nature, but this is a video game. Why not make the entire romp one of flair? At the same time, Best Month Ever! tries to play it straight as an endearing, soul-searching tale with sincerity and gravitas. Then, at a few key moments, I tilted my head and was taken out of the experience because of the awkward delivery of lines given the seriousness of some situations, and I wondered if this was almost meant to be a comedy. This mismatch does not play in the game’s favor, though it only softened the story’s impact instead of rendering it impotent.
A title with more polish would add a couple more hours to the experience, flesh out some of the grander scenes, and give the game the staying power it deserves. Unfortunately, as bold as the story tries to be, its brisk pace works against it. The intensity of each scene draws me in, and the writing is competent for the most part, with essential life lessons and gray areas communicated effectively in a brief amount of time. Again, though, the story feels rushed, which hurts the delivery.
Mitch and Louise have a convincing, effective relationship as mother and son. They are endeared to one another by virtue of their blood — and the love they share is never in question — though the two are also still getting to know one another. Being a single mom working at a diner, Louise runs herself ragged and doesn’t get the time she needs to bond with her son. Despite this, Mitch grows up quickly with a sense of responsibility to support his mom, who’s both studying and working to give him the best possible future. With this foundation, the two share a natural chemistry despite their lack of history. The intricacies of this relationship can be revealed only through well-written dialogue and a plot to draw out their personalities and conflicts.
Some might find the themes and situations in Best Month Ever! shocking — and they are — but the vital facet here is that the shock never feels cheap. Anyone can evoke emotion or set up a foil for characters to bond over with extreme elements in a story, but most of the dangers on the road feel authentic and believable. Not all, though. Some of the game’s events are just too absurd.
Capable dialogue can only carry itself so far unless it has delivery to match. Here, Best Month Ever! has inconsistent quality. Most of the time in games, the best voice actor will take the lead, which I think most people would agree is Louise, with Mitch playing a close second. Unfortunately, Louise’s voice acting was hit or miss. At times, the actor delivered lines beautifully, making me feel what her character is feeling; however, if I’m being brutally honest, her acting felt flat throughout much of the game. That said, Mitch’s voice actor absolutely killed his lines. I fell in love with this kid through spunk and urgency alone. Mitch is hard not to like just because of the voice acting. Other characters felt similar to Louise in terms of acting. Sometimes, the lines are well-delivered, though sometimes, I’m not sure they even practiced their lines.
Musically, Best Month Ever! is a marvel to behold. From start to finish, I loved the evocative, atmospheric pieces. As soon as I opened this game, I felt something; the tone was set. This sort of complementary backdrop makes a considerable difference in a story that’s intended to pull at the heartstrings. Visually, I have mixed feelings. The art style suits the era and atmosphere well. I get the sense that adult Mitch is looking back at this time hazily as if the memories are unclear as one might look back on their childhood. At times, the game animates well, with characters adjusting in scenes or moving about smoothly, while other times, the characters are so stiff and jagged that I almost laughed. During one scene, a character ran across the screen with a knife, and it almost felt like an early Flash-era animation. Still, I enjoyed the visuals overall.
Regarding controls, Best Month Ever! has some issues. I had trouble clicking around the field, and while navigating the 2.5D environment wasn’t all too common, when I had to, I was bumping into things, missing quick-time events because my character got stuck on some corner, and having a hard time clicking on executables. Fortunately, this rarely impacted the experience but produced noticeable frustration over time.
Best Month Ever! has an important, unique story to tell that charts the course of a dying mother and her beautiful young boy. Like the road trip itself, however, bumps occur along the way that detract from the experience. While checkered with flaws, the story hits home and meets a satisfying, albeit sad, conclusion. Some folks won’t be able to see past the jankiness, while others will appreciate the experience for what it is.