With only a handful of weeks to go until prom, what's a monster to do? If your answer is a mixture of cursing and insane schemes to woo the reckless forces of evil that dominate your highschool, then Monster Prom might just be the game for you. Developed by Beautiful Glitch and published by Those Awesome Guys, Monster Prom stands out from the crowd as the very first multiplayer dating simulator. That odd combination of traits actually comes together as an effective and entertaining party game for up to four players either locally or online.
The goal of Monster Prom is, aptly, to find a monster to successfully ask out to prom. The simple premise can play out over three weeks, a short game that lasts about 30 minutes, or a full game over six weeks that takes an hour to run its course. At the beginning of each game, players select one of four characters to be their avatar and then plunge into the hormone-riddled halls of Monster High. The choice of the avatar, as far as I could tell, doesn't matter much, but immediately after character selection players answer a series of questions from "the stupidest pop quiz ever" to determine stat bonuses and a starting advantage with one of the six romantic options.
And what options there are! Players can choose to woo a ghostly party girl, the sizzling demon, a reserved hipster vampire, a good-natured jock werewolf, a business-oriented medusa, or a despotic mer-princess. The cast of romance options interact in hundreds of unique ways to the point that after dozens of playthroughs I only encountered a handful of repeat situations - and that was just in the pursuit of one particular character!
Though there are six potential romance options and a maximum of four players, it's easy to see how Monster Prom could become a high stakes game night drama between friends. At the beginning of each round, there's the option to randomize turn order or participate in a real-world game based on an onscreen prompt to determine the order. That method becomes important because when a player chooses an activity it locks it off from the other players until the next round begins. That leaves the door open for a lot of negotiating and competition for places higher up in the turn order. There are also random events that can happen where a romance option could ask a player what they think of a rival, presenting a perfect opportunity to hurt or help them attain their ideal prom date.
Each week in Monster Prom allows players to choose an activity in the morning, a place to sit during lunch, and another activity in the evening. Which location players choose to go will result in a boost to their stats. For example, going to the auditorium will increase their creativity by two points. After each segment of the week, players will interact with some of the members of the school and have to decide how to handle the resulting hijinks. Having a high number in a stat increases the likelihood that a given option that relies on that stat will succeed, though players will have to infer what stat their option might rely on from the situation's context. Correctly solving a situation will net the player another stat boost and possibly improve their relationships with classmates.
Mechanically, Monster Prom doesn't have much going on. You won't find mini-games here. Instead, the fun resides in the myriad of situations and the joyfully crass and humorous dialogue. While that might not bring in players who need a kinetic sense of movement and purpose to feel engaged with a game, Monster Prom's charms will undoubtedly be received by those who live for scintillating word play and strange scenarios (i.e. those who are familiar with the text-heavy dating sim genre).
The various scenes of Monster Prom all play out primarily through cleverly written text, but the art stands as the secondary aspect of any given scene. Beautiful Glitch have shoved an awful lot of joy and vivacious energy into the still images and character expressions that play out over the course of a game. If there might be one gripe about the artwork it's that sometimes conversations with the same characters can reveal that certain stances are reused with different outfits. It's not a terrible problem, but something that can become noticeable after several sessions of play. Overall, the visuals leave me wanting more of them, and that's never a bad thing (I would buy a graphic novel done in this style in a heartbeat).
Basically, Monster Prom was handcrafted for people who loved the silly situations of the pigeon dating sim Hatoful Boyfriend and subsequently found themselves wishing they could play the game alongside incredulous friends to see what kind of hijinks they could get themselves into. Your reaction to the previous sentence really should tell you everything you need to know about whether you'd like Monster Prom. It's a glorious love letter to dating sim shenanigans mixed with the fun of either helping or backstabbing your friends in an effort to take a date to prom that I found quite enjoyable. It's certainly niche, but Monster Prom revels in the glorious absurdity of that niche.
Monster Prom is available now on PC.
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Play Event if you want something different. It might be short. It might have some narrative problems. It might sometimes have gameplay issues. However, you cannot get a similar experience from anything else released in the last few years. For all of Event's flaws, trying to communicate with Kaizen-85 and unravel its lies and secrets was a refreshing adventure that I feel grateful exists.
Is It Fun?:
Talk your way through a derelict spacecraft to solve a mystery
Very simple and sleek - the retro aesthetic sets this apart
Relatively sparse music, but excellent when it hits
Navigating the correct way to phrase things can be difficult
I enjoyed it, but it's definitely a slow burn
People who prioritize drama and enjoy non-violent games
Event is now available for PC and Mac
Review originally appeared on www.extra-life.org 11/17/16