System(s): PC (Windows, Mac, Linux)
Release Date: May 28, 2014
Publisher (Developer): Nowhere Studios (Nowhere Studios)
ESRB Rating: N/A
Great storytelling is an art form few are able to truly master. When it comes to video games, this is even more true. Nowhere Studios decided to take a chance with Monochroma, and decided that instead of dialogue, big cutscenes and in-game collectables to convey the story, colorless gameplay would be used explain everything. It does so with exemplary execution.
Go fly a kite
Monochroma follows two brothers that decide to have a little fun on the family farm. Players step into the shoes of the elder brother, and begin the game chasing the younger sibling as he flies a kite through neighboring farm lands. The little brother loses the kite on a roof, and, just as you catch up to lend him a helping hand, the tiles give way as you both tumble to the ground. You make it through with out a scratch, but your little brother isn’t so lucky. His leg is broken, and you must carry him back home.
Except it isn’t that easy. The brothers run across a corporate conspiracy to kidnap kids and put them in what appears to be some sort of stasis. Which means players have to make it home, while evading a corporation before they shut you up, for good.
Solution to what puzzles you
Everything started out so well in Monochroma. The melodies that sang from my speakers were a delight to listen to. It brought back nostalgic feelings from my time with Flower. Other audio tidbits pleasantly took over when the music ducked out from time to time to further set the tone. The footsteps clashed against surfaces, thunder rumbled as the rain drops pelted the ground, and there were all sorts of environmental noises in the ominous factories and industrial zones. The tutorial sets a tone, not only introducing controls, but the stark black and white world with rare splashes of red on seemingly random objects. It was gorgeous. It’s a good thing that players can take their time to enjoy the sights and sounds while solving puzzles.
I enjoyed the puzzles in Monochroma a great deal. Most were simple, yet caused me to think creatively. Adding to this creativity was the hindrance of the incapacitated younger brother. With the extra weight on the elder’s back, certain ledges and ropes are out of reach. Conveniently, areas that needed me to lighten the load were clearly marked with spotlights. Since the younger brother isn’t Riddick, he’s naturally afraid of the dark. These safe zones of light are the only places he could be set down, but aren’t completely safe havens. Certain puzzles will required me to be nimble on my feet. In one case, I had to flipping a switch to raise the platform the brother was on, then making a mad dash to climb up to him before the platform was out of reach. It’s a shame that the controls ruined any fun to be had with these clever puzzles.
Monochroma‘s controls caused the rage-inducing fits time and time again. Between the floaty jumps and the sluggish movement, I had a difficult time completing what should have been easy puzzles. Most of the time, I had to repeat the same sequences ad nauseum. Though other times, it was death due to poor control when landing on a surface. I’d slide off, immediately into the deadly water. What made things worse was when the corporate thug in a replica Freddy Kruger sweater chased me down. One false input and I was dead. Even with near instant load times between deaths, having had to repeat scenes over and over was never fun. It put a damper on a bizarre, yet interesting game.
One little snag
Monochroma almost has all the pieces to a well made experience. It has great visuals, fantastic audio, bold storytelling, and interesting puzzles to solve. Sadly, the controls are the missing piece, leaving a vacant hole of angst and disappointment in their place due to all their inaccuracies.