Location: Your Home!
Players: We recommend 1-2
Point and click… manually!
From the Thames and Kosmos website:
A thrilling adventure set in the headquarters of Monochrome Inc., a biotech company with some nasty secrets. You manage to get inside, and then it’s up to you to figure out what to do. Similar to a PC adventure game, players have to explore spaces, combine items, find clues, and talk to people. Step by step, you’ll start to grasp the plot and devise a plan. A fascinating story unfolds with each action.
The one genre I never thought I’d find myself playing as a tabletop game is one of my most beloved, point and click adventure games. I’ve been playing these sorts of games since the 1990’s, and though these games aren’t nearly as prevalent as they used to be, they’re the whole reason I got into escape rooms in the first place. Imagine my surprise when the publishers of our favorite at home escape games released a new line of products based on point and click adventures! I went in with expectations high, and blessedly, I wasn’t disappointed!
We had an awesome time with Monochrome Inc, to the point that I totally lost track of time and blew through the entire almost four hour experience in one sitting! (Though my wife later expressed she’d have liked to take a break, so next go, we’ll certainly do that.) Such a marathon session isn’t require to puzzle through the entire experience however, and there are well timed break points at approximately every ninety minutes or so, allowing for players to play at their own pace. With around four times the content of the usual Exit game, there is loads to do during the course of play with Monochrome Inc. As a completionist, I wanted to ensure we’d searched every nook and cranny and found every secret, and there was a lot of satisfaction to find in uncovering every detail, but it is certainly not required. In fact, the game becomes more replayable by using different combinations of player characters, (there are four included with different strengths, weaknesses, and story segments,) and several different endings possible! Much like my favorite adventure game of all time, Barrow Hill, I can definitely see coming back to this game every now and again to experience the story.
Initially, the rulebook seemed… astoundingly long, but the rules are actually incredibly elegant and deliver an adventure game experience amazingly well. While this old school adventure game feel can be a double edged sword from time to time, on the whole, anyone who was a fan of these sorts of experiences is going to love the inventory based puzzling and focus on story. Each area and interaction is beautifully integrated into the Thames and Kosmos Helper App, and while you can still play and read out the story yourself using the included Adventure Book, the narrative is voice acted very well within the app, and we highly recommended it. Locations within the game are beautifully designed and dynamic, changing based off player choices; a fantastic touch that builds the immersion well. It’ll also save your vocal cords if not playing solo, (which I also recommend, as a complementary co op partner is invaluable due to the variety in puzzling,) as there is a very dense amount of story available! It never feels arduous however, and the story bits refrain from droning on interminably. The climax is excellent, and caps off the story in a satisfying way, tying off all loose ends and, if your skillful, (and a little bit lucky, perhaps,) the ending you unlock could be explosively exciting as well.
I loved the puzzling itself, and the vast majority of them require using items you’ve picked up along the way in increasingly creative ways. The difficulty curve is great, and starts with some easy deductions, and gradually works players towards more challenging conundrums while avoiding too many logical leaps. There are also no overly punitive “gotcha” moments, and as the game is not strictly timed, there’s no pressure to rush. Even during more dire moments in the story, players are encouraged to think things through, allowing the pressure to be dictated by the players, rather than the game. This is a great set up, and allows for more freedom in dictating how intense or casual you want the game to be, and more options is always welcome. On the whole, I felt as though Monochrome Inc. had a great story to tell, and allowed me full agency in exploring it the way I preferred.
Though I have loved adventure games for a good long while, I recognize there are some problems endemic to the genre that just seem to pop up in even the best games. These problems show up in Monochrome Inc. to varying degrees, and while none of them are game breaking, a few tweaks to remove them would certainly be appreciated. One of the biggest issues encountered in these types of experiences is logical leaps, making the inventory puzzles morph from intuitive enigmas to guess and check lunacy. As anyone who has experienced The Longest Journey’s Rubber Duck puzzle can attest, it’s maddening when you have to read the developer’s minds. While nowhere near as insane as that puzzle, there are moments within the game that made us wonder how we were supposed to derive certain answers intuitively. There are only a couple of these moments, but we had to delve into the hint book for some direction the game itself did not provide in these moments. While the hint book is helpful, “hints” may be a bit of a misnomer. In most cases, the answer was given away completely, and we would’ve preferred to have proper hints to guide us. For completionists, the ending can drag out a bit as it can be rather difficult to suss out what remains to be seen, and certain points can become unreasonably more difficult if you successfully used an item in an earlier puzzle.
Overall, Monochrome Inc. delivered exactly what I didn’t know I wanted with it’s approach to tabletop point and click gaming. There’s a huge amount of content included, and I can easily say that the high standard Thames and Kosmos has set with their Exit games is easily matched by this new line of at home experiences. I cannot wait to try out The Dungeon, as well as any new adventures they put out! Buy your copy at your Friendly Local Games Store today, I wholeheartedly recommend it!