With some dabs of red
With all the cool tech demos and innovative ideas on display at GDC Play, it’s a bit surprising that a 2D side-scrolling puzzle platformer is one of the most worthwhile things to check out. But hey, good games are good games, and that’s exactly what Monochroma look like it is.
At first glance, Monochroma invites comparisons to Limbo. Hell, executive producer Burak Tezateser said as much as soon as the demo started. For good reason too: the color scheme made up of hues of black and grey, the small boy protagonist, the unsettling environments — it all positively smacks of the style popularized by Playdead. However, Monochroma has enough going on that it doesn’t need to use these comparisons as a crutch.
Monochroma chronicles the journey of a pair of brothers in the 1950’s as they traverse from the outskirts of a city and into a metropolis. The little brother injures his leg at the very beginning, and the older brother has to carry him throughout the game. He can put him down in areas where there’s light to solve puzzles, but always goes back for him.
If it sounds like the story’s a bit sparse, there’s good reason for that. Monochroma is told entirely through gameplay, not with any dialogue or cutscenes. Nowhere Studios wants to ensure that the player stays engaged in the game to understand the narrative. As such, it’s unclear what exactly Monochroma is about, but Tezateser mentioned that it’s a social commentary.
The heart of Monochroma lies within the puzzles that litter the way. While there are a share of complicated ones, the four-chapter six-hour game is structured in such a way that difficulty doesn’t ramp up. Instead, each chapter will feature a few particularly challenging sections, followed by ones that are easier to solve. It has a sort of rolling effect that’s supposed to keep any stretch of the game from being too frustrating.
One notable aspect of the platforming is that movements have that sort of clunky, unintuitive feel about them — again, a lot like Limbo. As such, there are times when you aren’t sure if you have to do a better job of jumping further, or if you don’t quite have the solution to a puzzle. Most times it’s the latter, but it takes a bit more experimenting than it necessarily should.
Despite this, Monochroma is a real joy to play. I only got to spend a half hour or so with it, but I was already itching for more when I had to put it down. Fortunately, I won’t have to wait long; Nowhere Studios says Monochroma is coming out next month. I can’t wait to again immerse myself in the aesthetics and atmosphere of the world that they’ve created.