I’ll admit it: I may have gone out of my way a little to avoid the modern gaming press. It’s steadily grown more and more clear that they and I don’t really have much in common, let’s put it that way. My list of filtered topics and sites has steadily grown to the point where I tend to read about what’s going to release soon and that’s about it. I don’t feel like I’ve lost all that much; the message tends to be pretty steady and I think over the past few years I’ve gotten it loud and clear. Time to listen to some new voices.
This has allowed me to open my mind a little more to games that might not have previously interested me. There’s something to be said for becoming unburdened by expectations that you should like something because of what it means rather than what it is; you’re able to appreciate media for its own merits. Monster Prom, for instance, is a multiplayer competitive dating sim with a focus on humor and inclusivity. Bottom line up front: it is hilarious and a fantastic choice for groups of friends. I have, mercifully, managed to avoid reading a single sanctimonious thinkpiece about it.
Prom season’s coming up and you need a date! There’s a few options available, but you’ve got to get monster-senpai to notice you first. That involves boosting your stats, getting to know your not-quite-love and catching their attention as best you can in the limited time you’ve got. Your choices range from hipster vampire Liam to preppy mer-princes Miranda to jockwolf Scott, but ideally you’re playing with friends and you just might have your monstrous eyes on the same creature of the night…
Again, this is a multiplayer competitive dating sim. I can’t really think of many other games that have tried that one. You take turns doing things around school and responding to situations as they come up; spend a lot of time in class and you’ll get smarter, for instance, while rebels who lounge in the bathroom will find themselves growing bolder. If someone uses a facility during a round of turns, it’s locked out and nobody else can use it, so there’s room to push each other around a bit. After each turn, players will interact with their classmates, allowing them to build relationships with the apples of their eye and work toward a successful prom invitation.
This is all brought together by some of the most hilarious writing I’ve seen in video games. The absurd premise relies on some absurd situations to work and this is where Monster Prom excels. Come across Miranda demonstrating proper napkin-folding techniques to an uninterested classmate? Maybe you can catch her attention by folding a napkin into a recursive, sentient napkin-based life form that exists only to fold more napkins, bringing up questions of a “napkinpocalypse.” That kind of thing. Monster Prom could have gotten pretty far on its concept alone, but there’s a lot of love here and it all kind of gels. There’s a ton of different situations to encounter, resulting in an impressive amount of content for a game that didn’t really have to go this far.
Naturally, a dating sim needs solid art as well and Monster Prom doesn’t disappoint. The characters are all bound to be appealing to different players, as one would expect, but nobody stands out as being especially poorly drawn or ignored. Even the playable characters – two flavors of Frankenstein, a shadow creature and a demon – are appealing in their own ways. There’s a relative paucity of situation-specific art, but it’s nice when it comes up, and in general the game tries really hard to ensure you like it and usually succeeds.
Even if Monster Prom doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, you probably want to give it a shot. The writing, as mentioned, is top-notch and hilarious. There’s a real spirit of competition that can grow as players jockey for position in school. It’s also got some lovely art and clever design throughout, too. Get some friends together, have each of you pick characters to voice-act, and everyone is going to have a good time heading back to high school.