Monochroma wastes its gripping premise and eye-catching visual design by having clunky controls and a wealth of inconsistencies.
In the end, it is difficult to recommend Monochroma. Despite its impressive audiovisual presentation, it fails in the areas that make a game a game. It is beautiful in its own dismal way, and the story it tells is decent, but I could not wait for it to end so I would not have to deal with the frustrating control and dull design decisions.
At most, I consider Monochroma serviceable, sometimes more than such. Its soundtrack definitely supersedes the other content even if it is not employed too often. Amidst all the other plateaued features the game has to offer, it's not enough to maintain sufficient buzz or convince jaded gamers not to wait for a seasonal sale.
It's a shame that Monochroma ended up this way, as there are sparks of brilliance buried within. There is a real quality to the sound and level design, which really add to the atmosphere and the puzzles could have been challenging with a little extra work. But the poor controls and the frequent frame-rate issues hamper this puzzle platformer.
Unfortunately, while Monochroma looks great, it doesn't play half as great.
While obviously being influenced by games like Limbo, Monochroma has a flavor and story all its own. Monochroma is a good game at heart, but it's hidden under technical errors and gameplay flaws that gave me no end of frustration. If you're on the fence about buying this game, you should play the Demo they released with their Kickstarter project to see what you think. But at the very least, you should definitely check out the OST by Gevende.
Monochroma isn't shy about its influences. It looks like Limbo. It features an escort mechanic similar to Ico. It yearns to express a fraternal bond like Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. By defining its look, play-style, and passion through a buffet of modern classics, Monochroma's identity is left to the strength of its execution. Unfortunately while Monochroma's story manages some delicate moments, its gameplay can't escape obscene points of needless frustration and mechanical tedium. It's the latter that comes to define the experience.
The potential was there for something truly special along the lines of Limbo or even perhaps ICO with your immobile brother, but there ended up not being enough reasons to care for the game or the characters within it. Nowhere Studios have an artistic eye that spoke in a unique and moving way to me at first but the technical problems voided that emotional connection and Monochroma ended up being a slog rather than a joy.
Perhaps such questions aren't meant to be thought about too deeply, but as I struggled with the controls and watched the brothers die over and over again, I couldn't help but wonder what they - and subsequently I - were doing there in the first place.
What Monochroma gets right, however, is tone and gameplay. The puzzle platforming is fun to solve once you get the feel for character movement, there's a lot of variety in puzzle design, and some very clever level layout ties everything together.
The world of Monochroma starts of promising a dystopian exploration in a silent and haunting world, but the lack of broader narrative or any kind of empathy leaves the world as devoid of life as the dystopia in which it is set. It's a world in which to dip your toes, and maybe even enjoy a short while, but it never really sticks.
Die-hard platforming fans will feel disappointed, and puzzlers may not feel the game is quite satisfying enough. The overall experience, however, is good enough, just. If you're the curious sort who loves a good yarn, you should give Monochroma a go; but if you find pleasure primarily in the mechanics and control of gaming, you're better off with something else.
Rating Monochroma is difficult. As it stands at the time of writing, it cannot be recommended; and it must be reviewed based on how it is now. Fortunately, control issues are something that can (and should) be fixed with a post-release patch, and if that happens then this awkward experience could transform into a beautiful, if brief, journey.
If you've been harkening for something like Limbo, that isn't Limbo, then take a peek at Monochroma. It's a little frustrating to start off, but once you've got the nuances down then it all starts slotting together. As Nowhere Studio's first title, I can only see their future games getting better as they go.
Monochroma is undeniably a good game that's worth playing, but there are several issues which mark the experience down. Having a cohesive storyline, for one, would have made it much better. I know it's a matter of choice and some people prefer the mystery to knowing, but I would have liked to hear characters talking and to explore the relationship between the two brothers, as well as the relationship between the dystopian city and its inhabitants a little more than just at the visual level.
Monochroma has the heart of a good dramatic game, but it has neither the soul nor mechanics of one. The presentation and premise are very good, but the lack of payoff hurts. The gameplay seems solid, but there are enough flaws to make it feel like it was put together without much care. The good news is that the developer has been trying to patch the game often, so there is hope that it can ultimately be good, but for now, you have to put up with a lot to enjoy it.
Monochroma wants you to debate your every move, to drain you of color and splash you with hope when you play well. It's often too quiet to know if you're doing just that.
Monochroma could have been something really interesting but its wonky controls and weak gimmick leave it in the pool of other mediocre indie platformers.