Nowhere Studios' upcoming indie game Monochroma leads with an incredible start, immediately grabbing your attention with its unique art style and gorgeous presentation: Grayscale with red highlights. Running through a playground with your red scarf rippling behind in the wind as if it were the cape of a superhero, you're chasing after your younger brother who's flying a red kite through the cornfields in the background. Unfortunately this is one of the game's few pinnacle moments. What begins as a countryish setting slowly transforms into an industrial, steam punky, science fiction dystopia which will ultimately leave you feeling utterly depressed.
Once you've finally caught up with your brother he falls through a roof and breaks his leg. You must then carry him on your back to safety, navigating through a myriad of puzzles which require you to keep dropping and picking up your brother. Scared of the dark, your brother will shake his head squeemishly when attempting to put him down anywhere else than in the light. When you finally can put him down, he curls up into a ball sobbing in terror.
Carrying your brother slows down your character significantly, and keeps you from jumping high enough to reach your destinations. You'll need to figure out how transverse through areas with your brother in toe by interacting with ropes, switches, crates, barrels, and more. Only a few of the puzzles require any sort of meaningful interaction with your brother, mostly due to his added weight.
After a short while you'll discover some sort of freakish experiment and begin to be pursued by a man in red who'll chase after you throughout the rest of the game. These chase sequences are the highlights of the game, and lead to several intense and nerve-wracking moments. The other zenith point in Monochroma is when finally discover the strange and mysterious plot by the evil corporation which seems to have taken political power over the world.
Despite how much we love the art direction of Monochroma it suffers several glaring flaws which detract significantly from the what could have been a much more enjoyable game.
One of the most important aspects of any platformer is the ability to precisely control your character's movements, and in this pivotal element Monochroma fails. Many of Monochroma's puzzles are simplistic in nature, perhaps a bit too much for our tastes. You won't find any mind-bending conundrums to solve as you would in say, The Bridge. Despite finding a solution to the vast majority of the game's puzzles within just a few minutes, actually navigating through them is tedious at best and becomes downright frustrating due to the combination of your character's clumsy handling and long loading screens as you die ad nauseum.
For example in one area you must flood a room and balance on a wooden crate as the water rises, dragging the crate behind you to continuously move upward. The slightest touch of the Xbox controller's thumb stick will cause your character to move much farther than he needs to, resulting in falling off of the crate and drowning. Thinking it may just have been the controller's thumb stick, we tried both the D-pad and then the computer keyboard's WASD and arrow directional controls with the same results.
Monochroma can be summed up with one word: Depressing. If the drab and dreary world doesn't make you feel disheartened, then the irritating controls and lackluster ending will certainly leave you wanting more.
Our feelings towards Monochroma are like that of an abstract painting in the modern art section of a museum: We're left with countless questions and few answers. Ultimately you'll either fall in love Monochroma or wish you never played it. For this gamer, it's sadly a bit of both. If Nowhere Studios fixes the character movement, it would radically change our enjoyment and perception of the game.
- Fantastic art style and soundtrack.
- Weird and creepy story with several tense nerve-wracking and adrenaline-fueled moments.
- Simplistic puzzles that don't provide any intellectual reward for solving.
- Poor controls which make navigating through this platformer tedious and frustrating.
- Ungratifying ending leaves many of our questions left unanswered.
Our rating: 6 out of 10.
Monochroma hits Steam May 28, 2014 and will be available on PlayStation 3 and the Nintendo Wii U at a later date.
For more information about the game, visit www.monochromagame.com.
Please note this review was based upon a free advance review copy of the game provided by Nowhere Studios.