Monster Prom added a unique twist to visual novels: multiplayer. In a genre defined largely by romance and building deep connections with fictional characters, additional players aren’t intuitive; in fact, a bystander might wrinkle their nose and suspect this is a cheap attempt at capitalizing on players’ desire for multiplayer. Now with its third installment, the people have spoken—we not only love Monster Prom’s multiplayer, but the light-hearted, progressive, and mature humor is just the kind of thing best shared with friends. Fantastic writing with distinct characters helps, of course.
In Monster Prom 3: Monster Roadtrip, don’t feel like you have to fasten your seatbelt (go ahead, groan) because this is a ride best experienced with your feet up on the dash as you enjoy laughs and light-hearted antics in literally hundreds of scenarios. Essentially, the goal is to raise one of six stats to 25 to reach a specific kind of destination. Players start with 10 in every stat. If any stat drops to 0, the game is over. Each run lasts about an hour, and winning isn’t necessarily the end; players are encouraged to hop back in and try for another destination in a different stat. Along the way, other methods of earning destinations are revealed, but this is enough to get players settled in.
The stats include hype, stamina, mind, soul, money, and magic. Choices are simple: players get to choose one of two randomly selected locations on the road in top-down fashion. Each destination suggests how three different stats may be impacted, whether they will go down or up. Why would someone choose a stat to go down? Because that only guarantees a stat will go down with a chance of increasing one of three; conversely, choosing a stat that goes up guarantees that stat and leaves a chance of losing one of three. The mystery stat resulting from the choice is hinted at in the dialogue branch. For example, players may be guaranteed to lose soul by tampering with a tarot card reading, but depending on the tarot card they throw in, they may increase money (a mint condition card), hype (a cool-looking guy wearing sunglasses), or magic (a chance to pull four more tarot cards).
Monster Prom 3: Monster Roadtrip’s gameplay is a means of delivering fantastic writing. Almost every location, scenario, and choice is off-the-wall funny. This game is the definition of Rule of Fun and carefree enjoyment. Throw all tension out the window because this is about wacky characters, highly suggestive humor, and mind candy. Sure, fussing over the stats can provide a degree of urgency, but the choices are generally pretty obvious with a handful of exceptions. Even still, the fun is in the journey, not the destination. Completionists may fuss a bit, but the easy difficulty option will absolutely extinguish any potential heat if that’s an issue.
After hitting a few spots on the road, the adventurers hit a rest stop for the night, and players can choose one of a few spots that impact the next week or the immediate. Some examples include trying to build a relationship with one of the two named NPCs that drive most of the dialogue, picking up a hitchhiker, and trading one of four random tokens for another one of four random tokens to increase and decrease a stat. Building relationships with the NPCs and picking up hitchhikers is the key to finding the rest of the destinations beyond hitting 25 in a stat.
So, what is multiplayer all about, anyway? Well, in a two-player game, my friend and I alternated turns going to different locations. We quietly read the dialogue and discussed choices or remarked on how absurd what was going on was. For the most part, our experience was silent since so much of the game is dialogue driven. Even though we thoroughly enjoyed carrying on, it didn’t seem unique to Monster Roadtrip’s game design. This could have been a single-player experience that we just talked about while we played together, but you know what? That’s totally fine. I enjoyed experiencing this with someone else; I believe that’s the intention.
Monster Roadtrip has no voice acting aside from occasional exclamations like “Alright!” or “Oh, hell no!” The music’s fine, as players choose a mix-tape in the beginning, but it kinda falls into the background. By no means does it detract from the experience, especially since players can choose one of four tapes, but the lack of voice acting is a bit disappointing. That said, this is definitely a dialogue-heavy title, so I imagine adding all that voice acting would have significantly impacted development costs.
The graphical quality is a significant enhancement over previous titles, though Monster Roadtrip remains stylistically similar. While almost entirely delivered in still images, the credits boast capable animation that I wish was present throughout the game. Considering the lack of animation and voice acting, Monster Roadtrip is clearly all about the writing and little else.
Some folks will take issue with the writing. You have to know what you’re getting into before you buy Monster Roadtrip. In terms of quality, I can safely say that it’s fantastically crafted on an almost objective level. That said, the content will rub some players the wrong way. Thankfully, the game makes it clear from the start that trigger warnings can be activated for references to drugs, sex, and violence; Monster Roadtrip has several references to all three. I personally enjoyed the humor immensely and so did my friend. Rarely did I find the gratuitous swearing and overtly sexual comments to be in poor taste. Certainly, the game never shames anyone or punches down. Yes, this is a progressive game, but it only felt preachy in a couple of rare instances. Monster Roadtrip is inclusive without being too in-your-face about it.
If nothing else, Monster Prom 3: Monster Roadtrip has a seemingly endless supply of bizarre, creative scenarios that excite the imagination. With its light-hearted, casual gameplay, I can’t remember the last time I had felt so carefree while playing a game. Monster Roadtrip has no central plot besides driving around and having a good time, no conflict, and remains positive almost throughout. I should emphasize that I like my heavy, tense games, but Monster Prom 3: Monster Roadtrip is too easy to like. This is a cozy, hilarious game that fills a void not many games can.