Monochroma is the second title from the Turkish development team, Nowhere Studios. After their success on Kickstarter and the experience behind their initial social game, OynaTurka, Monochroma aims to provide a puzzling adventure for players.
Publisher: Nowhere Studios
Developer: Nowhere Studios
Genre: Puzzle, Platformer
Platforms: Windows (Reviewed), OS X, Linux, PlayStation 4, Wii U.
Release Date: 24th April, 2014
Based on the aesthetic of the levels, character attire, and the influences of the soundtrack, the title is set in a French dystopia. A version of which is set in a society where two children must fend for themselves without the care of adults, and a surprise twist that involves the use of youngsters for an eerie subplot that ingeniously overtakes the ostensible objective that is looking after your little brother and avoiding the bad man that wants to abduct them.
The controls for the game operate on a simple system where the player can explore the environment to the sides, pick up or put down the little brother, and interact with objects that may help to progress further. Ordinarily, the objective of looking after a character can be quite demotivating and trying on a player’s patience. This is normally due to factors such as poor AI or unresponsive controls on the part of the NPC. With those factors in mind, the game succeeds in keeping the escort role an interesting one, as the brother is often necessary to the completion of the level, such as using him for weight on a pressure pad, or to even the balance on a beam, amongst other scenarios.
The puzzles themselves don’t pose much of a challenge and, unfortunately, don’t get any harder as players progress through the levels. The main reasoning behind the limited success of the puzzles is that they advocate trial and error style gameplay, with less emphasis on actually thinking and more on repeating it until you succeed. This is due to players often recognising what strategy they will have to employ; however, the controls make the gameplay unnecessarily difficult and results in the trial and error aforementioned.
The title’s controls are responsive when it comes to movement on the screen; however, the controls start to fail when it comes to certain areas such as climbing ladders, trying to jump off to the sides, trying to climb down a wall and accidentally getting caught on a ladder, or causing a failure of the puzzle as timing is a critical element of the game. Although the controls did lapse in those areas, they are still highly responsive and give a good sense of control of the character for the player.
Puzzles and scenes where players are chased by the boss, are intensified by the pounding beat of the soundtrack and rapidly closing gaps, as well as various obstacles set in place in order to create confusion and slow the player down. However, the linear nature of the map makes these chase sequences less intense, and also fails to keep the player in suspense as both the route to escape and the solution to the puzzle are fairly obvious. On the other hand, the chase scenes aren’t exactly boring as players won’t often find themselves being frustrated at failing puzzles. This is one of the many instances in which the trail and error nature of the game doesn’t hinder the overall experience players will have.
Although the game does have a few downfalls with the controls and overall layout of the maps, it is an enjoyable experience.. The more hardcore puzzle community will probably look at Monochroma as one of the more basic puzzle games with not much challenge. Of course, the more casual players will love the game for the very slightly taxing puzzles and linear to-the-point essence of it all.
As much as it is its own creation, the similarities between Monochroma and Limbo, are strikingly similar. Achieving the same monochrome palette and sidescrolling gameplay, in addition to the seemingly similar, dreary background throughout levels. Monochroma fails to find its own identity and climb out of the impressive shadow cast by Limbo.
After all is said, Nowhere Studios has gained invaluable experience and can put it to use for any upcoming games they may wish to develop. As enjoyable as Monochroma was, they do need to fine-tune it and are perfectly capable of creating a highly entertaining puzzle adventure. For now though, this game attempts to do what Limbo did very well, and doesn’t quite manage.