In most dating sims, it’s obvious how to romance your crush. You just talk to them over and over, selecting the nicest dialogue responses until your persistence is rewarded. Monster Prom flips that script by introducing both character stats and a competitive multiplayer component.
In Monster Prom, you’re a monster attending a monster school who has three weeks to level up their personality traits before prom night. You can seduce your classmates of vampires, werewolves, sirens, and so on. In order to impress any one of them enough to get them to go to the prom with you, you’ll have to craft a particular image for yourself. Skipping class to hang out in the bathroom, for example, earns you points in the “Boldness” category. Starring in the school play gets you “Creativity” points, and hitting up the library gets you “Smartness.”
Let’s say you want to romance Damien, a headstrong young demon who thinks Hell is “lame” and would prefer to conquer a new kingdom. Many of the dialogue choices that win him over require either high Boldness or Fun. For example, your attempt to impress him by taking on otherworldly armies armed only with a colander and a grapefruit will work if you’ve got enough “Boldness” points. Otherwise, you’ll humiliate yourself in front of him.
In a similar vein, if you don’t have enough “Fun” points and you try to impress Damien with a “silly dance,” he’ll assume you’ve instigated a dance-off. He’ll kick your ass, resulting in this scene: “Damien’s voguing is so intense, it crushes you to the point that it’s even worse than getting beaten by him... Damien leaves you in a sad boneless pulp on the floor.”
Monster Prom has the option for multiplayer, with up to four players taking turns at levelling up their reputations and seducing their monster crushes. Yesterday, Kotaku’s Gita and Cecilia streamed a local multiplayer version of the game. The game also offers a short version (which seems to be more forgiving with stats) and a long version (with more turns and much pickier paramours). I prefer the most gruelling possible version of Monster Prom.
By introducing the personality stats and the multiplayer element, Monster Prom introduces a couple of new elements to the dating sim genre that work surprisingly well. Real-life dating can already feel like a depressing multiplayer grind, so you’d think that these elements wouldn’t be a good fit for a genre that ordinarily presents a fantasy version of the world in which the protagonist can date whoever they want. It works in Monster Prom, because in this fantasy, all of your paramours are a hell of a lot funnier than your average OkCupid user.
Monster Prom feels fun even when you fail, not only because of the monsters’ cutting put-downs, but also because of their deliciously cruel facial expressions, like Liam’s side-eye and sneer or Damian’s wide-eyed, sharp-toothed grin, brought to life by the team’s artist Arthur Tien. If you’re going to romance a bunch of monsters, you should expect to get torn to shreds—emotionally and physically.