Monster Prom 2: Monster Camp is, all at once, a visual novel, a monster dating sim, and a party game, but I’ve never played the original title and only possess a cursory knowledge of the visual novel genre so I was drawing from a shallow pool of knowledge when unconsciously forming my initial expectations for the game. I figured Monster Camp would be a game with some reading, a handful of cute monsters, and a ton of choices that players could make with or against their friends. Mostly, it was a pretty good guess and what I had wrong was a mere matter of proportions; the recipe for Monster Prom 2: Monster Camp is actually something like three parts text, one part player choice, and two parts unabashed sexiness. In keeping with the recipe metaphor, Monster Prom 2: Monster Camp can be a decadent and delicious snack for players to share with their buddies, assuming their buddies have a taste for this sort of thing. If not, the game is still enjoyable alone.
For what it’s worth, I’d wager that most people will be able to glean enough about Monster Camp from screenshots to determine whether or not it’s up their alley, so the chances of awkward interactions with multiplayer pals is probably mitigated by a process of self-selection. I, apparently, have the sort of friend group that is all about dating monsters, which is something I hadn’t known prior but certainly appreciated when it came time to playtest this game. For people on the fence, Monster Prom 2: Monster Camp supports remote play via Steam, so players can sample the game, assuming they have a friend who owns it and wants to play with them.
The first important choice for players to make, after discussing player limits and safety, is to toggle any relevant content filters. The second important choice is more a matter of style. Because the game plays out through text, and voiceover is limited, it is helpful to decide if players will be reading text to themselves, reading it aloud, or utilizing some hybrid of the two. Reading in silence was accompanied by chuckles and occasional commentary in my game, but was also plagued with players needing to ask if everybody was ready to proceed. There was also an anxiety about reading too slowly. I enjoyed the games where we all embraced corny, over-the-top, voices and narration, because it provided a unified rhythm and pace to the game that we could all experience together. However, we’re all tabletop role-playing enthusiasts, so silly voices are well within our comfort zone. Every group’s mileage will vary between these two approaches, and a brief discussion at the beginning of the game will likely grant a degree of insight into what method will work best for each particular group.
The first mechanical choices, though, might be made without any insight at all. The game opens with a cast of monsters on a bus. Players choose their character and a handful of items that will help them pursue their ultimate goal – convincing a specific sexy monster to watch a meteor shower with them at the end of summer camp. The items offer bonuses to a character’s stats, and the monsters players are meant to date are derived from a seemingly unrelated question that is asked before the characters even arrive at camp. There is no immediately clear indication what the items will do in terms of stats, and, technically, the question answers don’t directly state which monster character the players will be pursuing, but it doesn’t take too long to become familiar with the items and which answers correspond with which dating options can be intuited after a playthrough or two. What is more difficult is figuring out what will unfold from most of the subsequent choices the game has in store for its players.
This makes it hard to be strategic at first, but it might be for the best. When presented with choices between solutions, seating arrangements, pick-up lines, mixed drinks, or whatever the case may be, the first instinct might be to pick the option that will help you win. It’s a game, after all, and that’s a valid playstyle. I’m guessing Monster Prom 2: Monster Camp isn’t designed to let players take advantage of tactics and numbers to convince the monsters to date their characters. The result is a cast of characters who feel a bit more believable and endearing. Additionally, the consequences of choices are consistently surprising and what seemed like the best answer (but probably wasn’t) can often resolve itself in a hilarious and satisfying fashion. Who wants predictability anyway? I’m not yet sure how long it will take for players to know the system well enough to manipulate it. I’m also not sure how many playthroughs are required to meet all of Monster Camp’s characters or exhaust its deep well of clever quotes and outcomes. I can tell you that I’ve played eight matches so far and haven’t found any of them lacking in freshness, which is impressive, considering that matches average anywhere between ninety minutes and two hours in length. Different groups of players pursuing different potential dates is a powerful variable in its own right, and there might be matches that grant the rare opportunity to experience a harem story from the perspective of the actual harem, assuming multiple people court the same crush.
I am not sure how much dialogue was present in the original Monster Prom, but it’s clear that Beautiful Glitch hasn’t run out of things to say. The various characters, in addition to the narrator, explore a substantial body of topics that range from politics, social norms, and philosophy to popular culture, multiverses, and kinks. Between the euphemisms, which are far from infrequent, there are opportunities to breach new subjects with friends and even, dare I say, learn a thing or two. And even if you don’t end up discussing Immanuel Kant or the tragically nonfictional human monsters who refuse to acknowledge other people’s preferred pronouns, there are plenty of other things to discover. You could even learn which of your friends possess predilections for werewolves and which ones have a thing for demons, and that sort of knowledge should be valued in and of itself. I’m not going to outwardly state that sharing such knowledge with one another will bring us all closer together as people and probably even unite the world, but I will say that playing Monster Prom 2: Monster Camp remotely has been an effective way to release tension, share some laughs, and bond with people from across the country in the crucial, fleeting moments between grocery deliveries and Zoom meetings.
Monster Prom 2: Monster Camp is available for PC and MacOS via Steam and GOG.