There’s not a lot that truly surprises me when it comes to game concepts anymore. After all, we live in a time when almost anyone can make even a short game. But even I have to admit that I was taken aback when I heard about Monster Prom: XXL — in a genre that consists almost exclusively of single-player titles, Monster Prom: XXL pulls away from the pack and presents the ability to play it in multiplayer, locally or online with friend codes. Arguably, this is its biggest draw and is ultimately what convinced me to give it a go. Strangely enough, it actually works really well.
Monster Prom: XXL plays out much like a worker placement board game. Each game lasts anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes, depending on how many players you want, whether you want a short or long game, and whether you include the DLC content. The game starts by having each player select a character and taking a personality test to determine your starting stats. You’re then given three weeks in order to build your character’s stats in hopes that your desired mate will go to prom with you at the end.
To do this, players choose where within the high school they want to go, with each location giving you a boost to a specific stat. You’ll then be given a random event where you’ll be forced to pick between two different outcomes. Your choices will further affect your stats, either positively or negatively.
While Monster Prom: XXL can be played single-player, the real fun begins in multiplayer. Any given location can only be visited by one character per round, so there’s some strategy thrown in with working around what your opponents do. Between weeks, a random player will also be given the opportunity to directly impact the relationship building between one of your rivals and one of the romance options.
To figure out turn order each round and ensure it isn’t always the same person starting, Monster Prom instructs the players to pick something like a favorite TV show, then debate a silly topic using that thing. The results of debate dictate turn order.
What’s really nice about multiplayer mode is that you can play with a single controller, which makes it work fairly well if you want to host a virtual game night over Twitch. Due to the short runtime, and all the randomness and different routes you can try to take, you can easily get in a couple games in a session without the game overstaying its welcome. This is fantastic, since more than likely, you will want to play more than once given the sheer amount of content available to find.
The one thing I wish were more present is some form of in-game instruction. Though most of the game is easy enough to figure out after a round or two, I still have absolutely no idea what’s going on with in-game items. What does each item do? How do I use it? I found myself actively avoiding the store after a few games, simply because that’s time I could be using to better my character. I’m sure it has some use, so it could certainly be a lot clearer on what to do.
As a dating sim/visual novel, Monster Prom: XXL would be nothing without good writing to back it up. Luckily, it has this in spades. At a minimum, every couple of lines has some sort of clever joke or pop culture parody thrown in. These could be poking fun at everything from RPGs to The Little Mermaid, and even the smallest jokes never failed to get a chuckle out of me.
Given the amount of humor in the game, I expected it to get old quickly, but it never did. The characters are also well written and developed. Each has a distinct personality with some sort of ironic twist to them. For instance, Miranda the mermaid is introduced as being “as cute as she was genocidal.” This unexpected twist further helps each character remain unique and provides for some insane interactions among the cast.
Though the writing takes center stage for me, Monster Prom: XXL shines in its art style. The cartoony style mashes perfectly with the humorous nature of the experience. With some games, this style can overwhelm the player, but the visual novel aspects of Monster Prom allow it to be animated without going overboard. I also appreciate the emphasis on framing certain scenes as snapshots, as if they were meant to go straight into the school yearbook.
Monster Prom: XXL may seem pretty strange, but it’s precisely this strangeness that elevates it to greatness. It was clearly designed with multiplayer in mind, as this mode stands as the strongest experience in the game. Even in single-player though, Monster Prom is sure to capture you with its quick wit and charming art style. There’s a lot to love here, and I hope that there’s a place in your heart for that special monster.