Best Month Ever! Review: It was the summer of ’69
What would you do if you only had a month left to live?
For Louise, there was no doubt in her mind: she’d find a home for her son, Mitch.
Of course, such a task would be easier said than done — as the single white mother of a biracial white/black boy in 1969, barrier after barrier seemed to appear for Louise. But what recourse did she have? Her time was limited, and her priority was clear: Mitch needed to be taken care of in her absence.
It’s this goal that will drive the plot forward in Best Month Ever!, a narrative-driven game that fans of the TellTale titles will find familiar. Developed by the Warsaw Film School Video Game & Film Production Studio and published by Kablater, Best Month Ever! is touted as “a roller coaster of emotions” as players take on the role of Louise and embark “on a road trip of a lifetime through the late 1960s USA, trying to show her son Mitch how to navigate the often cruel modern world.” Can you help find Mitch a home, keeping in mind your choices will shape him into the man he will ultimately become?
Best Month Ever! opens up with some story exposition, Adult Mitch reminiscing about how life was before his mother learned of her prognosis. The mother and son sadly seemed to live separate lives — Louise working during the day and going to school at night in an effort to build a better future for the two, and Mitch doing his best to avoid being a burden on his overwhelmed mother. All that changed when Louise received the bad news, her priorities immediately switching to finding Mitch a home and spending some quality time with him before she passed. A road trip was in order, so the two piled all their belongings in the car and hit the road… for the last time.
Right from the get-go, Best Month Ever! is heavy and stressful. Although players officially take the role of Louise, they will also play as Mitch on occasion, both his and Louise’s choices impacting Mitch’s growth. These choices are kept track of by way of three meters: righteousness, confidence, and relations. Righteousness determines Mitch’s attitude toward the law and following rules, confidence determines Mitch’s self-assuredness, and relations describe Mitch’s attitude towards other people. These meters are in the top right corner and go up or down depending on the decisions made, so choose wisely.
I won’t lie, the second the game allowed me to play as Mitch, I got a little anxious. There’s a huge warning at the beginning of the game talking about there’s racial violence portrayed and how this game isn’t supposed to reflect real people and all, but my mind immediately went to Emmett Till so there was a sense of danger in even his smallest actions. One of the first situations you find yourself in is watching a man drop some cash, which gives you the option to pick it up, then either pocket it or hand it back. In real life, I’ve personally never worried about what could come of trying to help a stranger be reunited with a fiver, but here I found myself agonizing over inserting myself into this situation for fear of a fatal beating. Remember, it’s 1969 in this game…
…a fact that is driven home time and time again with each storybeat. Either through Mitch’s eyes or playing as Louise, players will be presented with uncomfortable situations where one or the other are clearly second-class citizens. Louise will have to carefully navigate instances of sexual harassment or straight up sexual assault, while Mitch faces varying levels of racism, both experiences making the player feel consistently unsafe. For a game that can be completed in its entirety in 3 hours, a lot of life-altering moments are packed in — ranging from believable to truly out there — shaping Mitch into the adult he will ultimately become.
Because the game throws so much at you with increasingly tense situations, it’s easy to kind of get roped into the flow of things for the sake of propelling an exciting story forward. And while I did find myself at the edge of my seat plenty of times (despite some wildly impossible situations), I kept circling back to the point of the game and found it to be largely unrealized. Instead of shaping Mitch into an adult through careful conversation, it feels like he just watches Louise in a last-ditch effort to face her own traumas. Additionally, there are too many choices you are presented with that give you the illusion of choice instead of having a true impact on the story. For example, there’s a part where you go back in time to play a younger Louise and are given a choice at a really critical moment in her life; as players, we already know this doesn’t make sense because it’s in the past. It’s already happened. Why are we given a choice here when we can’t change what’s transpired?
Speaking of those choices… they do ultimately matter, yes, but not to a desirable degree. Those meters at the beginning are weighted at the end to give players 1 of 9 total endings, which seems like a lot… until getting to them. All 9 endings are pretty much the same, with just a few sentences changed to indicate where Mitch ends up in life. And with no branching narratives to explore, playing the game 9 times to see extremely similar endings feels like a pointless endeavor. That’s not to say Best Month Ever! isn’t worth playing at all — more that it’s only worth playing once.
Best Month Ever! is truly unique in its premise and setting. Stepping into the shoes of a terminally ill single mother was gut-wrenching, and navigating 1969 through the eyes of her biracial son gave me anxiety. Although I do wish my choices had a bigger impact and that more focus was given to preparing Mitch for the future instead of hanging on by my fingernails to what felt like Louise’s wild last ride, Best Month Ever! was different enough to keep me going. If you love narrative-driven games and have plenty of patience, Best Month Ever! is worth the road trip.
Final Verdict: 3/5
Available on: Switch, PS4, PS5, XBox One, XBox Series X|S, PC (Reviewed); Publisher: Kablater; Developer: Warsaw Film School Video Game & Film Production Studio; Players: 1; Released: May 5, 2022; MSRP: $19.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a copy of Best Month Ever! provided by the publisher.