Adventure Games Monochrome Inc. is a brand new cooperative game from publisher Kosmos, that while similar isn’t exactly an escape room game. Designed by Matthew Dunstan and Phil Walker-Harding, featuring artwork from Maximilian Schiller, the game sees 1 – 4 players tasked with exploring, combining things and unraveling the story. Split into three chapters, each takes between an hour and an hour and a half. However, whilst not an escape room will you want to escape the experience? Let’s find out!
Players find themselves in the lobby of Monochrome Inc. While there are three elevators connected to the lobby only one is instantly accessible, with face down cards indicating there are unexplored floors above. Players have been sent there as a team by someone they know as Ovin, but does anyone truly know what’s going on at Monochrome Inc, the company behind a new drug called Rainbow? It is a serious toned story, and therefore the age rating of 16 and up on the box should probably be listened to. Each player is assigned a character, each having a handicap that stops them from performing actions at specific locations.
Without the pressure of a ticking timer, and only an alarm level to be concerned by, players will be exploring, learning about what goes on at Monochrome Inc. and finding useful items and clues. On every level there are numbered locations to search, some giving information and others giving items. Whenever the team wishes to do something with a number they can either look it up in the included booket or type the code into the free to download Kosmos helper app. Regardless of the method the text read by the players or read out by the app is the same. If an item has been found the text will indicate what card to take from the adventure deck.
Players can freely pass items between characters at the same location at the start and end of their turn, though not during. This is to stop players from passing items as they zoom by others in an elevator. Some items will need to be combined with another item, or even a location – making it slightly different from the Unlock! series. To do this the numbers of the items are put together, the example being item 10 and item 11 to make the code 1011, which is looked up in the booklet/app.
At times players actions will cause the alarm level to be raised. Having the alarm level raise too high, and other actions, will cause specific endings to become unavailable. There will always be an ending, though this only occurs at the conclusion of chapter 3. Each chapter has a mission that needs to be completed, with them all focused around learning what is occurring at Monochrome Inc. There is a scoring system, so players can determine how well they did, on top of the multiple endings, though the experience is more about following the story than winning.
The end of each chapter came at a logical step in the story, allowing progress to be paused for another time. The save system isn’t exactly perfect, but does the job if players don’t wish to instantly carry on playing the next stage. There was a lack of a bold, big cliffhanger or something that would urge players to want to continue. This isn’t to say we didn’t want to play on, we completed it over 2 sittings, still this was due to wanting to know how it would all conclude rather than the end of a chapter coming at an epic time.
Adventure Games Monochrome Inc. has a few odd rules to it that give the game structure. However, in a no time pressure story driven game, where experiencing the story is the main source of enjoyment, breaking them sometimes gave a better experience. At one point during play, as a group we were certain a specific item needed to be combined with a location. Out of the three players only one character could do this without raising the alarm level and the player with the item was in a different room. Breaking the rule about passing items to skip a few otherwise pointless turns was instantly decided to be the favourable option. Another is potentially just the way it is written in the rulebook. It states that a character must move but then lists two options with one being to stay at the same level and explore. These seem to contradict each other, with the “must” needing to be ignored.
There is one element of the story that is designed in a way that it is easier with more players. This event causes a negative effect to occur each time it becomes a specific player’s turn, until items are found. With 4 players you’ll have 3 player turns of searching between each time the event triggers, whilst only 1 turn if playing solo or with 2 players. This can be avoided by always playing with 4 characters, by having players control two characters, but this is not mentioned in the rulebook.
The production quality of Adventure Games Monochrome Inc. is strong, without having too much flair about it. The artwork depicting the rooms of the building help build the narrative, especially as some rooms will be changed during play. A large deck of cards is included that harbours plenty of secrets in its own right, with over 100 cards included in the box. The standout element is the optional app. Having the ability to solely play with analog components is a great touch. Nevertheless, typing in the numbers and having the text roud out for all to hear made the experience flow a lot smoother.
Despite a few oddities in the way that the rules are laid out, and that some are there to give the experience a structured board game like feel, playing through Adventure Games Monochrome Inc. does feel like you’re progressing through a narrative. It’s also a story that you can then pass onto a group of friends and they might get a different ending. There was only the odd time a hint was needed, so the difficulties of the puzzles weren’t high. Still, it’s the narrative and the details that come to light that players will sit around the table and discuss, and more importantly remember. The story had a serious tone to it and was enjoyed by all, which is why I’m excited that more Adventure Games are already available!
(Editor’s Note: Adventure Games Monochrome Inc. was provided to us by Kosmos Games for the review. Check out the games official website here.)