Monochroma Review

Monachroma is an atmospheric puzzle-platformer that defies its title by adding occasional touches of red to its dreary dieselpunk noir world. The game opens with two brothers playing where rolling farmland meets the sea. The younger brother breaks his leg, and you, playing as the older brother, pick him up, carry him on your back, and take him on a long journey that has you scrolling ever rightward. Why you feel compelled to carry your brother over so great a distance and why your journey takes you through a bleak city saddled under the twin yokes of rampant industrialization and fascism are among the questions that the game doesn't explicitly answer for you, at least in any overt narrative way. I know that some gamers become annoyed when a game doesn't bother telling them exactly what is going on at all times, but I actually appreciate a game that can create a unique world, drop a few clues here and there, and leave you free to exercise your imagination as you continue your journey and discover more about the game's world.

The game itself has three primary elements to it that it cycles through as you play. The first is traversal which primarily serves to get you to the next puzzle. You might have to climb up and over a crate or get past a similar minor obstacle, but you won't encounter anything that will put your gaming skills to the test. Some of these feel a bit on the long side, like they're also there to pad out the game length.

Monochroma screenshot 2

There are also occasional chase sequences as well. A burly pursuer will appear through a doorway, the game will cue the chase music, and then you'll need to push forward until your pursuer drops the chase at a predesignated spot. These sequences were my least favorite part of the game for a few reasons. From a gameflow perspective they seemed a bit out of place in a game that is primarily puzzle-driven, but that's a minor complaint. More significant was the issue that there's a trial and error aspect to these sequences since you can't see what obstacles lie ahead until you reach them. After you get caught or fall through a gap a couple of times you should have a good enough idea of what to expect to make it through. At that point the biggest hurdle is the game's controls - the jumps are too floaty and edge detection is too hit and miss when you're one mistake away from failure.

The game's main focus, though, is its puzzles. These are environmental puzzles that you will have to solve to reach the exit from the area. Remember that you're carrying your little brother? While you are carrying your brother the extra weight prevents you from jumping as high as you can without him. You can set him down when you need to reach a higher platform, but he's a scared kid and is only willing to be left on his own under a bright light. This restriction is coupled with a few other mechanics such as switch activated platforms and elevators, changing water levels, swinging ropes and platforms, and the like are used to create the puzzles. Some of the puzzles require a little thought, but for the most part there's nothing here that will stop you in your tracks and send you to scour the internet in search of the solution. Like in the chase sequences, the biggest obstacle that I faced was the controls. The floaty jumps felt inconsistent, so it was difficult to get into any kind of groove in which I could instinctively know when to press the jump button. Hours into the game I was still bouncing off of obstacles or falling short and plunging to my death, and if you die while in the midst of puzzle you'll have to start the whole thing over again.

Monochroma screenshot 9

While I enjoyed the game from an aesthetics perspective, I wish that the controls were tighter and the puzzles more challenging. If you're looking for something that looks and feels different from most other games, then Monochroma will certainly fulfill those requirements. If you look past this, though, and view the game from strictly a gameplay perspective, then it doesn't hold up as well. It's not a bad puzzle-platform game per se; it's just that there are better alternatives available.

Final Rating: 72% - Monochroma's gameplay doesn't quite match up to its unique atmosphere.


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