Considering Monochroma has been out on PC for a year or two, it seems odd that Nowhere Studios have decided to release the Xbox One port so close to Limbo’s spiritual successor, Inside. Especially as Monochroma takes more than a little inspiration from the classic indie title. The problem is that the execution leaves a little to be desired.
The game starts off with the young unnamed protagonist playing with his brother in a field. Color has been stripped from the landscape, and the rain constantly falls to lend an ominous tone to the world. Dark and depressing, something clearly isn’t right here. Then suddenly our hero’s brother falls and breaks his leg. The young lad picks him up and throws him over his shoulder. And so begins their journey to evade an unseen force and make it to safety.
Platform: Xbox One
Monochroma threw its environmental puzzles at me straight away. Of course, they were easy at first to break me in, but then ramped up slightly. Moving boxes, climbing ladders and flipping switches are all required here; as well as using the brother to solve the various puzzles. But the puzzles rarely became a challenge. They only seemed to serve as an obstacle, more than something to tax my brain. There was the odd moment when I had to scratch my head, but I scaled most of the puzzles in a minute or two. Even in the end game, it became more of an exercise in frustration and patience, not skill.
I say frustration because that was the one constant throughout my play through. A platformer can live or die on its controls. Get it right, and players will probably forget any other gripes they may have had. Get them wrong, and it’s all they will remember. Unfortunately, Monochroma falls in to the latter. Poor controls meant that I was plummeting to my death several times a level. I wouldn’t have minded if it was due to me making a mistake or mistiming something, but even walking from one ledge to another can be fatal.
When Monochroma wasn’t asking me to solve puzzles, I was being chased through streets and across rooftops by big burly men. The game is purposefully enigmatic when it comes to the story, hoping that the big mystery will blow your socks off. But don’t worry, your socks are perfectly safe. The game tries too hard to be mysterious and vague. As such I had switched off to what was going on early in the game. When the story beats and big reveal happened, I was more interested in just getting through the game, as I had grown tired of the constant control related deaths.
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. If you liked Limbo, do yourself a favor and go and download Inside instead.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.