Nookie Monster

Date the cryp­tids of your dreams in Monster Prom.

PC GAMER (US) - - RE VI E W - By Kate Gray

Ionce had a friend who told me a story about when she was 13. Con­fronted with the signs of pu­berty—hair grow­ing in new places, mys­te­ri­ous bleed­ing that hap­pened ev­ery full moon—she was con­vinced that she was, in fact, a were­wolf. Such are the per­ils of poor sex­ual health ed­u­ca­tion in Eng­land. Of course, she wasn’t a were­wolf, but nes­tled in that anec­dote was an in­ter­est­ing lit­tle thought nugget: Teenagers are un­nerv­ingly sim­i­lar to cryp­tids. Monster Prom is about teens who ac­tu­ally are cryp­tids: a dorky vam­pire hip­ster, a were­wolf jock, a Me­dusa­like prom queen, a pol­ter­geist named Polly Geist, a Franken­stein’s monster and an ac­tual de­mon. Pu­berty can’t have been fun for this lot. Your task as one of four playable char­ac­ters is to woo your choice of th­ese teenage night­mares over the course of three weeks, in the hopes that the tit­u­lar prom night won’t end with you be­ing a re­jected loser.

There is a sin­gle­player op­tion and the op­tion to play with up to four play­ers, which is a much more re­ward­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. Monster Prom has clearly been de­signed with mul­ti­player in mind, which makes the solo mode not nec­es­sar­ily bad, but some­where be­tween a sat­is­fy­ing dat­ing game and a de­flated one.

At the be­gin­ning, you com­plete a small pop quiz to de­ter­mine your stats and your po­ten­tial boo. Th­ese stats are what de­ter­mine your suc­cess in up­com­ing events, where you are of­fered two choices of re­sponse, usu­ally fairly ob­vi­ously tied to one of the stats (do­ing some­thing stupid and brave re­quires bold­ness, for ex­am­ple). At lunchtime, you sit with your choice of mon­sters and choose be­tween two ac­tiv­i­ties de­signed to im­press one of them, rang­ing from rob­bing a jelly fac­tory to heist­ing with a tiny, an­gry as­sas­sin.

Each char­ac­ter has their own solid per­son­al­ity, so it’s of­ten easy to fig­ure out how to im­press them, but there is so much that you have to fig­ure out your­self while play­ing Monster Prom early on. It took me four playthroughs be­fore I re­al­ized that the choice of school build­ings of­fered at the start of each day was not tied to who you might find there, but in­stead to the stat you can improve by going there. This would have been use­ful to know when I was floun­der­ing with one point in smart­ness, but had stacked up 17 points in Charm, be­cause I was head­ing to the gym ev­ery day in hopes of see­ing the jock I was try­ing to date. It’s also not clear how many points in one stat helps you ‘pass’ the events— mak­ing Monster Prom feel like rolling the dice rather than strate­giz­ing against your friends.

There’s also a shop, which ap­pears some­what ran­domly and takes away the op­por­tu­nity to so­cial­ize for that day. In early games, the player might not re­al­ize this, and with only three weeks to try to win over a date, any time wasted is sig­nif­i­cant. This is made worse by the fact that it’s not clear what the shop is for. One item was men­tioned as be­ing re­quired in a rit­ual by one char­ac­ter, and an­other item (a sheet with two holes in it) re­sulted in unique di­a­logue op­tions, but left me date­less at the prom, be­cause I was a ghost.

Crude curses

The writ­ing is the star of the game, but is also one of its big­gest let­downs. Witty ban­ter and ab­surd events make Monster Prom seem like it’s packed with laughs, but it can bor­der on the try-hard side of com­edy. With­out want­ing to sound like a prude, the swear­ing and off-color jokes in the game felt shoe­horned in and end up com­ing across like a pre­teen who just learned the f-word. Con­sid­er­ing that the game be­gins by ask­ing you your pro­nouns, it’s more than a lit­tle jar­ring to see how many times char­ac­ters are called ‘sluts’ later on.

Monster Prom is a good-look­ing game with a lot of prom­ise that man­ages to fall short be­cause of its im­ma­tu­rity and its opaque­ness for new play­ers. Though it has a style that sets it apart from other dat­ing sims, it takes at least two or three playthroughs to fig­ure out what’s going on, which makes it a poor choice for a friendly get-to­gether. Mul­ti­player games—es­pe­cially party games like this one—ought to be far more ac­ces­si­ble than this.

Monster Prom has clearly been de­signed with mul­ti­player in mind

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