Gaming Writer Imogen Claire is looking for a date with a monster. What could possibly go wrong?
Life’s hard. It’s really difficult. No matter the milestones – school, moving out, learning to drive, graduation, a nine-to-five – that we collect like semi-precious jewels to decorate paper crowns, is it possible to be our very best self? Feeling adrift, are we fulfilling an anachronistic tablet of stone for adulthood upon which we cement identity and success on how fast we progress through its tasks, comparing our pace with the continual torrent of posts and tweets and photos and statuses and stories? Will we wake up one day more tired than we’ve ever been before, byproducts of an economic climate that demands enthusiasm and exuberance from its worker bees yet barely offers a crumb of stability in return?
Monster Prom, set in the supernatural Spooky High School, kinda like, understands this, and provides you the opportunity to indulge the most questionable of moral quandaries, disobey several interdimensional laws, becoming public enemy número uno, all in pursuit of maybe holding hands with your crush. ‘Cause, you know, we’re all just figuring out this weirdo life together! (◠‿◠✿)
There’s three weeks til the Monster Prom (or one week, if you choose a short over a full playthrough). As one of four possible students of Spooky High, now is the time to set your sights on a date and attempt to charm your way to their heart – or perhaps lack of one. We don’t discriminate here. But this is no ordinary school and no ordinary courtship. There will be no trying-very-hard-to-be-casually leaning against lockers, nor practicing writing their surname along with yours in the back page of your notes. Monster Prom knows flirtation is a game, and one you will sink to the most depraved depths to catch a glance in your direction.
The player begins with a pop quiz of absurd questions with equally absurd answers that turn into character stats – Smarts, Boldness, Creativity, Charm, Fun and Money. Each round comprises a full school day. In morning and evening, you spend your time at any one of the places available like the Auditorium, the Library, the Outdoors so to boost certain stats. Who you choose to sit with at lunch carries significant gravitas, just like in real life, and offers more opportunities to add Creative or Smarts or Money, etc to your ‘bank’.
Seems reductive to turn a multidimensional personality into these one-word aspects? Absolutely! These values, however, determine how successful your flirtations are with the object of your affections. For example, I chose Damien for my first playthrough because duh, look at him.
The classmates will often start contests or breed antagonism between themselves, and luckily you happen to be there in the Bathrooms or the Auditorium or wherever to (de)escalate it. It’s also a perfect opportunity to (un)impress. You’ll have to take a side in the conflict but your solution might not stick its landing if the corresponding stat isn’t high enough. It’s a gamble because the solutions aren’t identified – you’ll need to guess which is which. If you choose a Fun solution and it works, you’ll be rewarded a pop of hearts for the love interest with added Fun and another aspect points. If it doesn’t, you lose Fun and another aspect’s points, as well as any standing you had in the classmates’ eyes. It’s a mechanic that really leans into the absurdity of calculating a romance in games, and also into the grim, awful, seemingly-unending moment you wish you’d never opened your mouth or lived in the first place.
Evidently, the odds must ever be in your favour and how you choose to spend each round must be a cold-blooded tactical decision if you wanna cozy up to Cthulhu. For some players, this may sound all too familiar, but hang in there. The utter irreverence and unpredictability of the writing sparked by the magnetic characters ensure you’re in for one Hell of a ride, so don’t keep your arms and legs inside and touch anything that glows or drips odd liquid. What’s the worst that could happen?
Three weeks pass, and the shadow of Monster Prom loomed. I invite Damien to come to prom with me… and he tells me to get real, loser. Spurned and unprepared for that kinda truth, I immediately begin another playthrough. Screw you, Damien! No one needs your stupid ‘Prince of Hell’ baggage! This time I refuse to make the same mistakes and purposefully don’t pursue anyone. Turns out Polly likes that ‘devil may care but I hope he realises what he’s given up’ swagger I’ve acquired, and we spend an awesome prom night together on her secret ending.
Oh yeah, there are tonnes of endings and scenarios for the game. Like it’s in the four-figure range. Because of the sheer volume of scenes and dialogue in the game combined with the stats system, a playthrough will always have something new to offer and especially so if you play the multiplayer. A shop pops up with expectedly zany stock that changes as you play, convincing the player that anything is possible at Spooky High – for better or worse. All this being said, a repeat scenario mutes slightly the spontaneous, ridiculous setting the game has created, but I don’t imagine it would bother the great majority of players. It’s like what they say at the end of those cheesy American movies about life and stuff. High school really is what you make of it.
Bunk off classes. Become the high school dodgeball champion. Advocate peace. Stick it to the man (and women and children of planet Earth by releasing an Eldritch abomination into our plane of existence). See the sunrise at the fairground. Scam unsuspecting targets of credit card fraud. Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t look around once in a while, you might miss it. But you could always start another round of Monster Prom.