Date the cryptids of your dreams in Monster Prom.
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.
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