The dating simulator genre is one of the weirdest areas of video games right now, if you look past all the gross big boobed anime maids there are some real unexpected gems. There's the comedic but surprisingly heart-warming dad dating simulator Dream Daddy, there's also the pigeon dating sim and secret sci-fi novella Hatoful Boyfriend and of course, there's Doki Doki Literature Club that I think needs no explanation. I’ve enjoyed all three of these games and their weird quirks so when Monster Prom, a multiplayer dating simulator where you date high school monsters, was announced I couldn't wait to play it. Unfortunately, it didn’t hit the mark for me.
Monster Prom is a 1-4 player competitive dating simulator where you have three weeks to romance a monster date to go with you to your high school prom. You all play as teenage monsters who have the option of dating six other students in your class. Through events and dialogue choices you must get to know and impress a fellow classmate and then at the end of the game you must take the plunge and ask them out to prom. The game runs similar to The Yawhg where players have stats they can change that affect the outcome of events. Monster Prom has a really fun concept with some great visuals but unfortunately, it has some problems with hit or miss humour, competitive gameplay mechanics and narrative flaws that hold it back.
Monster Prom is available to buy on Steam for £9.29.
The setting of Monster Prom has a lot going for it, it has the perfect competitive setting with the pressures of getting a prom date coupled with teenage monster hormones flying everywhere. The monster character’s look fun and quirky and even though their designs are quite stereotypical this style works really well for dating simulators because essentially you want to pursue a ‘type’ of person. There’s the badass, gorgon girl with snake hair, the bubbly, cute ghost girl and the buff werewolf jock all look like they’d be interesting a fun to get to know.
I would like the opportunity to get to know these characters but the problem is that the three-week period is just too short. It's just not enough time for any of the characters to progress or get a decent story arch. Some of the characters come across as smug, annoying, judgemental or just plain rude at first and there's just not enough time to get to know them beyond this surface. I was set out on perusing Damien, the broody, demon, on my first play-through but he never really progressed past his stereotype of being constantly angry and kind of douchey.
Another aspect of the game that I think is quite damaging is the hit or miss humour of the game. Monster Prom inevitably focuses on jokes that are immature and teeny but when done right this kind of humour can be really funny. The character’s obsession with Instagram, ranting about their parents and general high school jinx, there are chuckle-worthy moments in the game. But unfortunately, Monster Prom instead focuses on its ‘lol random XD’ comedic style and really goes to town with it to the point where it's off-putting.
The humour can get also weirdly sexual, like REALLY sexual. It works occasionally like when it’s revealed that all the teenagers are into the same cheap, dirty romance novel but when they start talking about them discussing their opinions on using dragon d*ldos, that’s where it feels weird. I understand that these monster teens are all different ages physically (like the vampire is super ancient), but they should all have personalities that suit high school students right? This kind of comedy feels really out of place and it feels like the writers wanted to prove a point by making fun of anything and everything so they really pushed the boat out. There are some really funny moments and events, but they are lost in this kind of humour.
Another issue that the game overlooked is the prom itself, there is just no build up whatsoever. The characters hardly ever talk about it or even mention it, the school makes no preparations and then when you finally get to prom the ending is just a static polaroid of you and your date. It just makes for a pretty underwhelming ending.
Even if the ending is a little underwhelming, a general playthrough of Monster Prom is pretty fun. At the beginning of the game each player gets to chose a character and their preferable pronouns including a they/them options (whoop!) and then there's a short quiz at the start of the game to establish your stats, depending on your answers you get different levels of characteristics such as being bold, clever and creative. However, this quiz also matches you up with a potential character to date which if two players receives the same character can inspire competition.
The only problem with this system is that if you already had a certain character you wanted to pursue in mind unless your quiz matches you with that character then chances are you won’t be able to pursue them. The game is pretty rigid in this system, the character that you match make with at the beginning keeps on appearing in your story events meaning you don’t really have a choice on who you like. The quiz shoe-horns you into pairing with a particular character which takes away some of the fun.
Another problem is that there is little tactical gameplay, which is a dating sim competition I was expecting a variety of decision-based tactical play. The game is structured into three sections (weeks) with three events happening in each section. In each of these nine sequences, the players are shown a map of the school and can decide where to go during that event. Different places raise or deplete different stats such as going to class increases how smart you are and going to the school's theatre makes you more creative. I think the idea was to have the character react differently to what stats you have but, again, because the game's run time is short and due to the random nature of the game these stats never feel like they are impacting anything so feel little inconsequential.
There is one fun tactical based section where you can choose what table you sit at during lunch break. Its only one player per table so based on the order of the players an opponent could snag the table and get precious conversation time with your potential date. But apart from this, there's very little else. Even when trying to pick dialogue options that you think your love interest might like can turn on your because of the game’s ‘lol random’ comedy, it’s difficult to choose an answer you think that character would like.
On a more positive note, an aspect that is really great about Monster Prom is that it prompts interactions between the players outside the game. Choices in the game are based on the order of the players in a 'first come, first served' order. To decide this order, Monster Prom creates a quirky mini-game that involves player interaction outside of the game. The game suggests to the players that they should ‘each name a food item’ and then once everyone has decided it then prompts ‘decide amongst yourselves which answer would be the best food for a government mind control operation’ and the players then decide the order based on how fun their answers were. The questions change each time with a different funny situation. I think this mechanic really beings the fun and party vibe to the game, it’s just a shame that the other competitive parts don’t quite fit together.
Graphics and Audio
One of the best features of Monster Prom is how the game looks, the brightly coloured comic-book style really captures the attitude of the game. All the character’s designs really capture their personalities and their facial expressions add to the comedy. All the characters feel completely individual and stand out in a way that really inspires you to get into the dating mood. I felt like replaying the game just because I liked the look of the other charters and wanted to know more about them. The soundtrack is split between being inspired by old high-school movies and guitar riff ‘surfer’ vibes but both styles fitted the mischievous nature of the game.
Some part of me thinks that I am taking Monster Prom too seriously, talking about the lack of character development and little tactical play when it’s just trying to be a silly party game. I just feel that the game has such potential and when playing it on my own, local multi-player and online multi-player, these problems just kept persisting. I think it’s a fun and quirky party game but misses out on being more than just that.
|+ Bold, colourful art style and character design||– Not enough tactical gameplay for it to be competitive|
|+ Party mechanics that are fun to play with friends||– Not much depth to the narrative|
|+ When the comedy is thoughtful it's really funny||– The 'lol random XD' humor can be too much|