Like any other entertainment medium, or form of art, video games are often used to share a message. This became more and more true as indie games became commonplace during the last couple of console generations. It’s a good thing, but sometimes less is more, which is something that the folks behind the new release, Best Month Ever! could have benefitted from realizing.
Set in 1960s America, Best Month Ever! centres upon a single mom named Louise and her mixed race son, Mitch. You’ve already probably guessed that the focus of this story isn’t just on two people having the time of their lives. No, that isn’t the case. While the focus of the game is on a woman who’s dying of cancer, and has little time left, trying to find a new home for her son, there are strong themes of racism, violence and distrust. In fact, this can be a very dark game.
The majority of this three hour long experience takes place in 1969, as Louise and Mitch attempt to find long-term security, but there are parts that go back in time to show events from Louise’s past. These often deal with her relationship with both her own family and Mitch’s dad, who has never met the boy. Through them, you’ll witness more troubling subjects, so be warned.
For a game that wishes to comment on and demonize 1960s America and its disturbing racism, Best Month Ever! suffers from its own similar problems. Too many of its characters are caricatures, including two Native Americans that are met along the way. Both speak in a very cartoonish and arguably racist manner, and their chapter involves numerous Native stereotypes. It makes for a questionable experience at times.
All of the above is wrapped up and presented in a Telltale style, narrative driven, visual adventure game. Thus, you can expect limited controls, a lot of dialogue options and choices that will shape the man that Mitch ends up becoming in one of the 9 different endings. The problem is that there doesn’t always seem to be a good choice to make. Maybe it started with my first negative choices, but I felt steered towards and locked into some bad situations, including a really questionable scene involving a police car and a tornado. Things got much darker soon after, though, when the mother and son got involved with the KKK.
As I said, this is a very dark and somewhat caricatured game, which doesn’t pull any punches in its portrayal of the racist United States. Things could’ve been handled a lot more tastefully, though.
On the presentation side of things, Best Month Ever! is rough. Its animations are stilted, basic and limited, its visuals are dated and its gameplay is far from unique, which is understandable given the genre. Going further, the voice acting is often quite poor, not to mention over-the-top and occasionally stereotypical. The actors who portrayed Louise and Mitch did a pretty good job, though.
That said, I seem to have reviewed the Xbox One version instead of the next-gen one. I requested an Xbox code, and noticed that it didn’t tell me to install the game on our Series S review unit’s internal storage, which all next-gen games do. After I manually transferred it to the internal SSD, it failed to update to the advertised Series S version and never showed X/S in the corner of its cover art.
Then again, I highly doubt this is much of a technical marvel on any console or PC. It’s a rough and dated game, but it’s also one I won’t soon forget. On top of that, it’s also slightly buggy. There were times where the characters wouldn’t respond to my inputs or dialogue choices, until I opened and closed the guide once or twice, or waited.
With all that having been said, I must admit that I’m having a hard time thinking of the most appropriate score for Best Month Ever! While it’s hard to call it a quality game, and recommend it for purchase at full price, it’s one of the crazier titles I’ve ever played in terms of content and situations, though I’m not sure the developers were trying for that. It’s also something that I’m glad I played, because I’ll never forget it. At times, it was like an interactive fever dream.
This review is based on the Xbox One version of the game, which we were provided with.
- 9 different endings
- Unique and unforgettable, for better or worse
- A few hours long
- Features dangerous negative stereotypes
- Questionable content
- Very rough