Coffee Talk has been a big catalyst for finding similar narrative-based games for me this year, messing up my Steam algorithm in the best way possible. For a game that’s introduced so many other games to me, I should really write something about and I will someday, but that day is not today. No, today we are talking about something a lot less serious, a lot less poignant but just as fun. Today’s discussion is about Monster Prom.
Initially I was a little reluctant to try Monster Prom. At a first glance the art seemed very tumblry with its cute monster characters, and I have long since passed my tumblr days (well, mostly), so I brushed it off. But the $10 on sale price tag coupled with the positive reviews got me thinking, hmm maybe it’s worth a shot. And oh boy, I’m so glad that I did.
Monster Prom launched in 2018 as the first – to my knowledge and the developers, Beautiful Glitch – competitive dating simulator. Not quite the mashup of genres I was expecting, but somehow the two work so well together. The premise is simple, you choose a character and try your hardest to woo your crush over a set amount of rounds so you can ask them to prom at the end, all while trying to sabotage your opponents. Whether or not your crush accepts your proposal or not depends on how successfully you’ve interacted with them. You gain and lose stats such as boldness and charm throughout the course of the game and each dateable characters prefers you to have different stats. It’s a straightforward premise that can easily and/or just as stressfully be played single player too. In fact, due to various stages of lockdown and full time work, my primary experience has been solo and I feel like I’ve had just as much fun with the game.
So I take back when I said initially about the art style, the over the top monsters make sense in the context of the worldand it suits the lighthearted nature of the game perfectly. Why wouldn’t the hundreds of years old hipster vampire tie his hair in a bun and shave the sides? The colours are bright and the lines are thicc and it all adds to the playful feel the game aims to convey. Admittedly the music didn’t leave much of an impression, the only track I remember being the menu theme. It’s a funky tune that gives off big seventies surf rock energy, super fun but too loud and startling for a menu. It kind of feels like being jolted awake by your alarm, but your alarm is an electric guitar. That being said, once you’ve gotten used to it, the song is really catchy.
I appreciated the addition of voice acting even though the game isn’t fully voiced, it helped with the immersion and overall connection to the characters. I found that it did suffer from the same issues as dubbed anime though, with the voice acting seeming like it just didn’t quite fit in the world. You’ll find that quite a few of the voice actors are the same culprits that you find in most English dubs, hence the disconnect. Each character has a unique way of speaking, even without full voice acting and despite their starkly different personalities, the writers are able to seamlessly fit them into the world while keeping up the humour.
So that’s leads us onto the next part: the writing. The real joy of Monster Prom comes from the writing and I can say with absolutely certainty that it is the funniest game I have ever played. Practically every single line is a punchline whether it’s dialogue from any of the characters or commentary from the narrator (who is actually a character themselves) and I found myself crying from laughter over the shenanigans these fictional monsters would get into. It is filled to the brim with pop culture references, even obscure ones that only people who had spent a lot of time on the internet over the past twenty years would understand. For example – now you’ll have to bear with me as I can’t remember the exact joke (and I wasn’t smart enough to take a screenshot) – you’re comforting a character and the narrator says something along the lines of “you’re now able to act out a real life hurt/comfort scenario!”. It may not sound hilarious but hurt/comfort (in that exact order) was a popular genre of fanfiction back in the 2000s so to a super nerd of yore like myself, I couldn’t stop laughing.
The game doesn’t have customisable appearances for player characters, but it does allow for you to choose their and pronouns. Despite some of the characters having the most diabolical personalities, they all respect them and you aren’t locked out of certain romances depending on your choice. The game’s developers said themselves that it’s a monster dating simulator, and monsters like monsters. Monsters aren’t humans, so they don’t face the same hang ups as humane do. The sequel Monster Prom 2: Monster Camp improves upon this further with a non-binary romanceable character and further explorations of the facets of the existing characters, but I’ll leave that for when I review that title.
Now be warned, the game doesn’t shy away from swearing, sexual references (nothing is shown, but it is very horny) and drug use so if that’s something that bothers you, I’d probably recommend not to pick it up. For everyone else though, it is so much fun and I can guarantee that you’ll be howling with laughter within the first ten minutes. I’ve played many a game in 2021 but Monster Prom is no doubt in my top four this year, only being edged out from the top three by its own sequel. Despite its flaws, you won’t regret the time you spend with this gem and I highly recommend grabbing it if you’ve got the chance.