While going back to school is certainly not a desirable concept, it would certainly hold more appeal to find it populated by literal monsters, rather than the lousy figurative ones who made school life so difficult. Thankfully, Monster Prom: XXL offers a welcome opportunity to right those wrongs and ask a fantasy creature on a date to the biggest school event of the year.
Now, what we have here is a cross between a dating sim, a visual novel and a board game, with elements from all three intersecting nicely into something of strange, but haphazard brew. At the start, you're introduced to your potential dates, which range from an overtly regal mer-creature to a fiery-tempered demon to a jock werewolf. After this brief preamble, you'll undertake a short and silly personality test that determines both your stats and your ideal match. This is a little unfortunate, as it's possible to be matched with a character you're not really that interested in, but you can ignore this and pursue someone else if you want.
Following this, you go into the meat of Monster Prom: XXL – the weeks leading up to titular event. Each phase has you pick a location on the school campus, such as the Auditorium for a spot of thespian action, Outdoors for an impromptu race, or the Gym for a brutal game of dodgeball. These are essentially a way to level up your stats, such as Creativity or Fun, which will (naturally) affect the ultimate outcome of the game – your attempt to date one of the monsters. Following this, you'll be thrust into a scenario with one or more of your classmates in which you'll need to make a decision that will determine your level of affection with whoever's in the vicinity. Your choices are often esoteric, making it extremely difficult to predict the right outcome, which can occasionally be frustrating if you find yourself making error after error.
The game is intended to be enjoyed in multiplayer, with both local and online gaming supported, but in all honesty, there isn't much in the way of competitive action here; only the lunchroom phase seems to be based around making a decision before your friends do – determining who you sit with and have a chance to impress. Playing locally, the choice is informed by a fun little process where you'll be asked a question and have to decide amongst yourselves which answer fits the criteria given. For example, we were asked to choose a food, then to debate which of the chosen foods would be most effective as part of a government mind-control operation. This is done amongst yourselves socially rather than in-game, and it lends a nice party game feel to the proceedings.
And ultimately, that's what Monster Prom: XXL is; a party game. You can play solo – and it's fun – but the meat of the thing is a silly, knockabout experience that lives or dies on your appreciation of its humour. We personally found Monster Prom: XXL very funny indeed, with superb character art and a lovely surf-rock-ish soundtrack. There are hundreds of different events, outcomes and gags to find and enjoy, and the inclusion of the "Second Term" DLC adds even more longevity to the game. There's an extensive gallery of artwork to pore over, too.
Some will find Monster Prom: XXL rubs them the wrong way – the outcome of the game often feels quite random – but it's about the journey and sharing its eccentricity with your friends. It doesn't rival the Jackbox series, but it captures a similar and very welcome vibe which could turn it into a monster hit.