On a planet, far from earth, an alien structure has been discovered. A team of five was sent out to investigate it. To uncover who built it and where they are. They arrived, and began their study. But now no one has heard from them in weeks. Your task is to visit the site, and discover what has happened to the team. Is it a simple case of misadventure, or will you too disappear into the alien puzzle of the monument?
Monumental is a first person puzzle game in the same basic vein as The Witness, or even Myst. Players wander an environment, looking for clues and solving puzzles, in order to access further areas. Along the way players uncover journal entries from the archaeological team and piece together the events that led up to their disappearance, as well as learn more about the strange structure called the Monument.
Solving puzzles is the central mechanic of Monumental. These range from simple logic puzzles, to audio and environmental challenges. There are a few occasions where players can choose which puzzle they work on, but normally the game is quite linear in how it delivers each task. The difficulty and scope of the puzzles varies wildly, though there is a definite increase in difficulty as player’s progress.
To help in their endeavour, players have access to a number of handy tools. These consist of a journal, camera, audio recorder and a flash light. The journal records all the archaeological team notes you find, and is a quick way to reference written codes or clues you uncover. Some puzzles reference ciphers, found on the walls and floors, and the camera comes into play here by allowing players to capture images they can reference in-game. Yet more puzzles require reconstructing musical sequences, and the audio recorder allows players to record these sequences and replay them elsewhere. As for the flash light, it makes dark places not so dark.
The game itself is broken up into three stages; the research facility, outside the Monument and inside the Monument. Each stage provides a unique visual environment, and is a nice subtle way to both reward a player for progressing as well as give the game a sense of back story.
While there is an overarching story attached to Monumental, it is quite generic. Most players will guess the plot twists and revelatory ending, probably quite quickly. There are also multiple flaws in logic within the world’s fiction, as well as quite a few character or universe quirks that are obviously just there to facilitate puzzles.
Visuals in Monumental are a mixed bag. There are some inventive and surprising environment and object designs, but these are usually accompanied by visuals that are equally dull and uninspired. The overall graphical look of the game harkens back to games like Quake 2, with bulky squat levels punctuated by one or two set piece areas. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though.
Where Monumental begins to fall apart is in its scope, and the realisation of some of its ideas. Players are presented with quite open, expansive environments that quickly begin to look the same. Both outside and inside the Monument, while initially impressive, quickly become monotonous thanks to the overuse of a handful of details and textures.
Quite a few of the puzzles lack even the most basic feedback. Hitting buttons on a keypad for instance provides no acknowledgment that you have done so, or even that it has begun accepting a sequence. The player is forced to hope for the best, pushing at keys with what they believe is the answer, and only receiving verification when they succeed and a door opens.
Also, while a mix of puzzle types is normally nice, Monumental’s feel slightly odd and scattered. A handful of recurring puzzle themes appear, interspersed with challenges that range from the mundane to the bizarre. The start of the game seems to establish an interesting and understandable tone and timbre to the puzzles, but this quickly dissipates as players move into the next stages.
Puzzle games can be frustrating, we all accept that. Those who love the genre go in with a certain amount of assumed expectation that this will happen. But at no point were any of the puzzles as frustrating as the meta-puzzle that was getting Monumental to load. On several occasions I completed the first stage, only to have the load screen for the next level stall at 90% completed. Eventually I had to experiment, changing video settings at random until miraculously the level would load. Then when I entered the Monument itself, the game bugged out, failing to load a majority of textures and causing the level lighting to strobe as I walked. This too was resolved with experimentation and curse words.
SUMMARY: Monumental has a lot going for it. While not the most original in story and graphical execution, there is a challenging puzzle game with an interesting environmental concept in there somewhere. Players will feel a sense of accomplishment solving the puzzles, but are then ultimately rewarded by a stale ending. Monumental is for fans of the puzzle genre with an iron stomach for technical issues and mediocre writing.
Monumental was developed by Whipstitch Games and is available now on Steam.
Reviewed On: PC
Review System: nVidiaN9600C, G1 Sniper M7 S1151, 16GB RAM
Playtime: 8 hours