So this is the first game I’ve bought as a hard copy in at least a year (yes, I think it’s appropriate to refer to CDs as hard copy these days). MonoChroma, the special edition, cost $9 on sale, which is more than half the regular price of the basic edition. If only I had waited another couple of weeks, I could have picked it up for half again in the Steam sales. Hindsight and all that. Though I guess if I actually had the ability to monopolise on hindsight, I wouldn’t have bought the game at all. MonoChroma isn’t that good. It is essentially a slightly better looking version of Limbo, but with about half the amount of play-testing and a plot and story that make little sense.
MonoChroma is a puzzle-platforming, adventure game set in a dystopian world, somewhat similar to the 1927 movie, Metropolis. Coincidentally, MonoChroma also utilises silent narrative, is black and white (except for a splashing of red here and there) and portrays a city ruled over by an assumed evil mega-corporation. Unlike Metropolis, the story is full of plot holes and explains nothing. It’s supposed to be set in an alternate 1950’s. But even this is unclear. The backgrounds and world you move through actually have some strong design and a unique art style, really pushing for that dystopian mood. But that’s it. Because there is no reinforcement from the story, no exposition or even purposeful and strong characters, the setting becomes weak and shallow.
You play a boy in a beret with a red scarf. One day, you and brother, go out to fly a kite. When your brother hurts his ankle, you start carrying him towards the city for some reason, maybe to see a doctor. You witness a man with test tubes full of children and decide to do something, though not really sure what this something was meant to be. This is all I can offer as the story makes absolutely no sense. The only reason you leave your cosy little home is to fix your brother’s ankle or leg or whatever, and I don’t know why you didn’t take your brother back before taking on the mega-corporation.
And like the story and setting, the puzzles are also weak. Most of them are based around the fact that you’re carrying your friend/brother which means you can’t jump as high and occasionally have to put him down to complete a puzzle. Unfortunately, he only wants to be put down in spaces with lamp light which is mighty inconvenient and nothing short of annoying. With this is mind, most of the puzzles are time based, or require trial and error. While the timing on the puzzles are unforgiving, this isn’t such a bad thing, it just provides an extra challenge. What is a bad thing is that the controls are sluggish, the platforming often fails or is even staged. Several times, I got stuck on puzzles because the character wasn’t grabbing the ledge when he was supposed to.
Anyway, you never find out why kids were being stolen and put into test tubes, or why the 1950’s dystopia turned into a scene from the matrix, or why the big bad CEO was half squid, or why the big bad guy has only one henchman, or what you even achieved by the end, an end that was very unsatisfying. I feel that MonoChroma is a loose collection of similarly themed pictures that has been converted to a game, after the developers played Limbo and decided that indie fans love this stuff.
Now that you know my strong opinions on this game, I will finish with an exert from the blurb with my opinion interdispersed throughout:
The game is a cinematic puzzle platformer that balances unique puzzles (technically true) and non-violent action (untrue – you die all the time). Take on the role of a boy who needs tp carry his injured little brother on his back (but why?!?). You can’t move as quickly or jump as high with him on your back, so at times you have to put him down… (yes, this is as exciting as it sounds)
MonoChroma has been described as Limbo meets Ico (no game should use other games to bolster its own name); buit it’s much more than a skilled mix of two great games (no it’s not): It is a deeply visual, intellectual, and emotional experience (also not the case). Explore the hard emotional realties of life (there was no reality to explore), relying on interactivity to grow into an art form (what does that even mean?).
Monochroma is currently available on Steam for US$4.99 (Summer Sale) – usually US$19.99
[EDIT] The next review in 3 weeks will be on Darkest Dungeon