These days, it’s getting harder and harder to say I’m “not a dating sim fan.” Between Hatoful Boyfriend, Doki Doki Literature Club, and now Monster Prom, my one-time-exceptions and statistical outliers are starting to form a pattern, perhaps even a habit. Maybe I like dating sims. At the very least, I like Monster Prom, the debut title from Barcelona based studio Beautiful Glitch.
Structurally, Monster Prom is a dating sim with an RPG-lite feature; the player chooses from four characters and can woo six different monsters (Scott the Werewolf, Liam the Vampire, Vera the Gorgon, Damien the Fire Demon, Polly the Ghost, and Miranda the Mermaid) over the six weeks of the game. There are six locations on campus that they can visit, triggering a scene that will add to one their stats (Smarts, Boldness, Creativity, Charm, Fun and Money) depending on what they choose. Each ends in an interaction with one or more potential prom dates, with points awarded to the relationship depending on what choices are made in the presented scenario. At the end, the player is given the chance to ask their paramour to prom, with success determined upon how their interactions went earlier on in the game.
When the developers sent me a review code for this game, they told me that they’d counted 300 pieces of fan art already made of Monster Prom, which doesn’t surprise me given how effortlessly cool the visual style is. As with other dating sims, the animation is static, with only a limited number of character poses, but it’s polished with fun anime-ish sensibilities, like the chirpy, salute-like jaunt of Polly’s arm as it rests on her sunglasses, or the ornate detail on the naval uniform of the Interdimensional Prince. All the possible prom dates are hot as all gosh darn heck, which is also very important in this genre. I would kiss any of them in real life.
As far as Monster Prom’s sense of humor goes, I can’t decide if I’m impressed or shocked. They certainly made some bold moves with the jokes, including a disturbing section on bestiality in the game’s opening questionnaire. The vast majority of the game is hilarious, but at times touches, ever so briefly, on subjects of identity and marginalization, and does so in a way that I find difficult to interpret. Most of it seems to be all in good fun but with so many unique and obscure dialogue trees, it would be difficult to find and analyze them all. For example, Liam, one of the possible prom dates, is a hipster vampire described as a social justice warrior, whose interests align with all the title suggests. However, that doesn’t exempt him as a possible romantic interest, and while they could have made his character very annoying (which I might have interpreted as an omniscient dismissal from the developers themselves), he’s actually no more or less so than any of the other characters. Since the game allows the player to choose their pronouns no matter which character they’re playing as, and does not limit them to heterosexual romances, I’m inclined to generally give it the benefit of a doubt, especially because it’s so campy and one dimensional. But of course, intent is different from impact. Your mileage may vary.
That being said, the story and dialogue are sexy, irreverent, sarcastic, and hilariously self referential, exhibiting a hedonism unseen since Caligula. Between the character designs and their personalities, I’d probably watch a TV show about the Monster Prom students, or at least read a lot of fanfic.
As for the game’s weaknesses, the cleverness of the writing doesn’t add much weight of the universe it has created. The monsters are delightfully shallow, but leave you wanting more (a hole that I suspect fanfiction will probably fill in). I also like that the game has multiple outcomes and narrative paths, but it’s discouraging to meticulously guess at the “correct” answer in each decision in the wooing process and extend a prom invitation, only to get rejected. This sometimes makes the prospect of additional (and possibly repetitive) playthroughs discouraging, especially because it’s hard to tell exactly how much the character stats actually factor into the ending. Luckily, if you do decide to do multiple runs, the controls make it easy to skip the scenes you’ve already seen, and the humor in the writing makes it worth pursuing and seeing every scenario. There’s also two versions, 30 and 60 minute, so if you’re trying to get all the achievements (there are a total 1,384 outcomes and 388 story events) or need to retry a certain part, it shouldn’t be horribly time consuming to do so.
Monster Prom is ridiculously fun and laugh out loud funny; I’ve been cackling like Edna Crabapple with almost every panel. I plan to play it a lot more even though I’m done with my review, which is basically the biggest compliment I can give a game these days. Whether you’re a fan of dating stimula—er, simulators—or not, I highly recommend it.
Monster Prom was developed by Beautiful Glitch and published by Those Awesome Guys. It is available for PC.
Holly Green is the assistant editor of Paste Games and a reporter and semiprofessional photographer. She is also the author of Fry Scores: An Unofficial Guide To Video Game Grub. You can find her work at Gamasutra, Polygon, Unwinnable, and other videogame news publications.