How many games succeed in digging up feelings buried over time of precious moments often taken for granted? At best a handful or more, and Monochroma is one of them.
In this 2D puzzle platformer game, the player is a small boy forced to grow up caring for his younger brother in a bleak alternate dystopian era set during the 1950s. The story is carefully told through detailed black, white and gray visuals save for occasional spots of red here and there. There’s no narration, no text, and no cut-scenes; despite this, they’re not necessary which makes it all the more exceptional.
To progress through the game it’s imperative to have interactions with objects like see-saws, swings, or activities such as rope climbing, ladder climbing, jumping on and off platforms, and pushing/pulling crates, not to mention facing curious obstacles and unraveling mysteries. In this harsh situation, the player must not only look after his/her health, but also become the protector of the younger brother who is afraid of the dark and unable to walk, making him more vulnerable to the merciless backgrounds surrounding him. While the older brother has to carry him throughout the game, he can put him down in areas where light is available as he wanders around solving puzzles, but always goes back for him. Together they’ve got to venture from the outer reaches of a dark city, and into an industrial concrete jungle where an enormous, tyrannical corporation profits by selling robots to inhabitants. Once they witness a horrific crime by the same corporation, they need to stick together to endure six hours of figuring out nefarious problems in order to save their world from oppression. It’s required for both brothers to survive for the player to win the game. Moments of danger are inevitable, even the prospect of death. However, if one of them dies during the process, don’t worry: Monochroma has a player-friendly, ultra-fast checkpoint system!
At GDC the developer, Nowhere Studios, shared demos of this beautiful project, undoubtedly provoking thought and interest in visitors as they stopped by their booth. The tutorial itself triggered a touch of emotion taking on the role of the small boy and having him run playfully after his little brother against a ghostly grim backdrop of two mobile home structures, water towers, power lines, taking a leap over a platform, and then splashing his feet in puddles. As he comes upon a playground, it’s time to use the elements of the environment. Here’s where the player might first feel a hint of emotion, especially with the light music supplying a childlike innocence in the scene. During one time or another, everyone had to have visited a playground at least once in their childhood. The question is, do they remember what those days were like? What they saw, what they felt? Eventually the little brother flies with his kite into a gloomy cornfield while the small boy moves crates in order to reach wooden forts to jump on. At some point he follows his little brother onto the roof of a barn. When the two of them fall through the roof, the little one is injured. As he’s seen crying with his hands covering his face and eyes, the sense of responsibility is set in motion. After all, who would leave an injured child all alone in a dark place? From there, the story, the trials and the adventure truly begin.
Visually, don’t be surprised to see subtle resemblance with the game Limbo. Even still, fans should feel quite comfortable playing Monochroma since it has stunning creative detail, more characteristic depth and distinctive gameplay.
In the full game expect up to 60+ realistic puzzles blended in aesthetically pleasing environments spread across four diverse chapters. Part of the intellectual challenge players might face is recognizing what’s obtainable for use in each scene. What items can the player push, pull, open, close, climb on, jump on, swing on or carry?
Although having only a short amount of time to experience the game, there was enough to see with the eyes and to feel with the heart in ways that will encourage curious minds to play some more.
Teaser trailer: YouTube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XSEk7_o2Pns
Game Demo Download Page: Monochroma Website http://www.monochromagame.com/Monochroma/redirectdownloaddemo.html
Steam Greenlight: http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=156723130