Summer is the season of LOVE - and what better time to play a romantic summer-themed dating sim than the oh-so-spooky month of October? It's time to go to Monster Camp!
During this week's Steam Games Festival - Autumn Edition, I had the opportunity to check out the demo for Monster Camp, the upcoming sequel to 2018's Monster Prom. The original Monster Prom, which billed itself as the world's first "competitive dating sim," put players into the role of a student at Spooky High as they pursued one of several love interests. Characters you could ultimately take to the titular Monster Prom included a business-savvy gorgon, a hipster vampire, a slightly genocidal mermaid princess, and many, many more - plus, you could play together with up to three friends and either help everyone find love or sabotage their attempts to get a date.
The original Monster Prom continually updated with tons of DLC, adding new love interests, new events and more. Monster Camp is the game's first full sequel, and, according to the game's official Twitter, is planned to release later this month.
Monster Camp brings back the original's four playable characters - zombie Green, Frankenstein-inspired Blue, fiery Red and shadow-creature Yellow - as they spend a summer at Camp Spooky. The playstyle is similar to the original - players take turns visiting various locations around the camp, which allow them to raise one of several stats and interact with various characters, answering questions in order to hopefully gain affection points with the love interest of their choice. The stat system removes Money and streamlines the available stats to Charm, Creativity, Smarts, Boldness and Fun, which also lowers the number of visit-able locations to five and presumably eliminates the "Store" mechanic, in which players could use Money to purchase various advantages.
The events which occur at these locations feature the series' traditional irreverent humor mixed with pop culture references, sexual undertones so blatant they become simply "tones," and a surprising amount of heart. The nine events available to experience in the demo included helping robotic Calculester learn how to climb a wall, arguing with fashionable reaper Milo and angry demon Dahlia about the sexiest way to perform a hair flip, and helping the witch Joy improve the reputation of her Coven.
My favorite of the events, by far, was one which combined so many of the elements which Monster Prom does so well: hilarious, unexpected character interactions, memorable references, and boundary-pushing humorous situations that just keep coming. While hiking in the woods, the player, Calculester, Dahlia's rival Damien, and perpetually combat-ready monster slayer Aaravi become lost and hungry. When they encounter a pizza delivery girl (inspired by Sadako / Samara of The Ring fame) bearing pies earmarked for Wolfram & Hart - the antagonistic law firm from the TV series Angel - they pretend to be Wolfram & Hart by suing her. The group finds their way out of the woods, spends several days preparing for the trial, visits court, wins, and celebrates by eating the now-cold pizzas. Every time I thought to myself "this event can't possibly keep going or get any funnier," it did.
In addition to the longer, more in-depth events, I also loved the updated version of the "Sabotage" mechanic. In the original Monster Prom, sabotage occurred only every weekend, and primarily consisted of one randomly selected player deciding whether their opponents lost or gained stats. In Camp, sabotage occurs at night, during which players can choose to sit around the campfire with "Moss," the gossip-hungry character inspired by the cryptid Mothman. The player can then choose to accuse their rivals of everything from "illegal weasel grooming" to "the inability to speak Portuguese," - you can even name the celebrity or fictional character of your choice to serve as their accomplice. This event had me laughing out loud each time it occurred, and I found myself choosing to sit with Moss rather than the main love interests more often than not.
So much of Monster Prom's strengths lay in its characters - each love interest and supporting NPC had an over-the-top personality which allowed them to get involved in a wide range of shenanigans which made each play-through unique. Monster Camp definitely capitalizes on that, offering a mix of old and new love interests to pursue. Damien and Calculester, two of the original's most popular prom dates, return, but their presence does not feel stale, as Damien is allowed to focus more on his hobby of makeup and hairstyling while Calculester is completely out of his depth in the robot-unfriendly environment of the camp.
Popular side characters Dahlia, Joy, and Aaravi (now accompanied by a sentient curse named Hex) are promoted to main romance options, expanding on their roles in the previous game significantly. Meanwhile, new character Milo - a grim reaper and Instagram influencer - is absolutely fascinating, as they represent a type of monster which has not yet appeared in the series. (I do hope that, like Prom before it, Camp will feature secret romance routes for the side characters, especially Moss and the antagonistic members of "Camp Rival Camp".)
Members of the LGBTQ community will feel just as welcomed by Monster Camp as they did by the series' previous title. Player characters are given multiple pronouns to choose from, and all love interests are receptive to overtures from a player of any gender expression. The new love interest, Milo, is nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns, and is never disrespected by their camp-mates for their identity.
While it may have simply been the nature of the events chosen for the demo, I did feel that Monster Camp did focus more heavily on sex and sexual humor than the previous game. While Monster Prom certainly did not shy away from mentioning sex (heck, there was even a secret ending called ORGY) I felt like there were more events revolving around sexual content in Camp. In particular, one of the Camp Rival Camp characters, Morty the Minotaur, is described as "constantly sexualized," frequently discusses performing sexual acts with other campers, and poses in a variety of sensual ways - even showing off two heart-shaped cutoffs in his shorts which reveal practically his entire rear end. Is this just a few events, or will Monster Camp be a "hotter and sexier" version of the original? We'll find out when the full game releases later in October.
In so many ways, Monster Camp offers "more" of all the wonderful elements which Monster Prom introduced - more events, more love interests, more secret endings, more humor, more sabotage, and more of everything. Players who enjoyed the original will find so much to enjoy in Monster Camp, while new fans might want to check out Monster Prom first before diving into the sequel. Personally, I'm more than ready to have a very spooky summer-in-October!
The Monster Camp demo is currently available on Steam, with the full game available to purchase later in October. The official release date has not yet been revealed. The previous title Monster Prom (and its Second Term DLC) is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux devices as well as the Nintendo Switch console.
TechRaptor previewed Monster Camp on Steam with a copy downloaded by the reviewer. It will be launching for PC on October 23, 2020.