Telling a story with no written or spoken words isn’t anything new in the gaming world. Telling a story with little more than some delightful black and white visuals isn’t either. In fact, you’ll struggle to find much in Monochroma that hasn’t already been seen in various other games.
But that isn’t a bad thing and Nowhere Studios have brought a brilliantly dark, storytelling adventure with Monochroma; one that tells the tale of a young boy, his brother and their escape from bad times. I won’t go into the background any more than that, but it’s most definitely an account that will hold place in my mind for some time to come.
Perhaps much of the reason for this is that I’ve had some huge pleasure playing through the entirety of Monochroma. It brings together some brilliant puzzles, that whilst never pushing your brain to the max, will take a little bit of figuring out. Thankfully it does this in a way that doesn’t allow for trial and error. In fact, if you sit back and take in your surroundings for just 30 seconds or so, should quickly be able to pick up on what is needed to help the young child progress. With the physics working beautifully with each new conundrum and just enough platforming moments to ensure there is a decent pace to the game, Monochroma will drag you in and not let go until you’ve saved your brother from the horrors within.
Whilst the visuals on offer are fairly basic, I personally love the art style. For much of the time, the graphics come in the most simplest form, with only an occasional burst of colours being splattered here and there. The black and white, monochrome images stand up brilliantly and the flashes of red to signify the most important actions make sure that you’re never left hanging around and not knowing what to do next. They work wonderfully and are more than crisp enough to allow for precision when need be. At times you’ll find things a bit too dark and will be begging for a bit of screen brightness, but these are in short supply and don’t ruin the fairly pedestrian-like experience as a whole.
Occasionally, things ramp up in pace a little, and without spoiling the rather gritty, grown up story, there are most definitely a few scenes which, whilst short lived, need you to ensure that all your platforming skills are on point. This is never more true than when you pick up your younger sibling and help carry him to a safe point. Piggybacking is initiated simply with the use of the Y button, and once your brother is gripping tight, will refuse to let go unless you can find him a safe, well lit area. This obviously hampers your progress, limiting your actions and so, in order to make it through certain sections, will need to understand when, and where, the best moments to pick up and put down your brother occur. It’s simple stuff, but Monochroma shouldn’t be thought of as a hardcore puzzle platformer and instead should be seen as a game that takes you on a journey. Something which it excels at.
It’s disappointing therefore to see that every now and then, Monochroma lets itself down in the most basic way. You see, whilst the jumping, climbing and saving of your younger brother works well for the most part, the occasional blip in trying to grab a ledge or lever, and attempting to clamber from moving point to moving point is a bit hit and miss. It’s never enough to make you want to throw the controller out of the window, but it does make you question how something so emotive and so involving hasn’t just been given that extra little bit of love. The worst that can happen is your young character will fall to his demise, or be whisked off to a place he’d rather not be, but some well placed checkpoints throughout mean that when the basic gameplay does drop in quality (or at least your gaming skills fall short of the requisite level), it’s never too much of a hassle to get back to where you were.
For the most part though, the couple of hours you’ll spend with Monochroma are great and you’ll be urged by the slightly haunting soundtrack to discover the next story events at each and every turn. It may not have the huge backing that some other story driven adventures have recently arrived with, and chances are that unless you really feel the need to search out and pick up all the hidden flowers, grabbing the full achievement quota in the process, are unlikely to find a need to go back and run through things for a second time. But for the low price and stunningly brilliant adventure that you’ll be sent on, Monochroma is more than worth a shot.
And the best bit? Its tale is left pretty wide open for some continuation.