Developed by students from Nanyang Polytechnic in Singapore, Monomino is a cheerful, albeit simplistic, puzzle game in the vein of classic puzzle-solvers, such as Lemmings and Tetris. The premise: a happy, block-shaped coupling of an Elvis impersonator and his female companion results in copious amounts of babies, who, unwittingly, walk themselves toward disaster from the moment they drop from the sky.
Yes indeed, Monomino is negligent parenting at its finest.
The role of the player in Monomino is to safely guide the cute babies to their destination using a combination of rotating blocks (Tetris-style) and specials, including explosives and police officers (à la Lemmings). The early levels provide players with an introduction to the basics, gradually increasing in complexity, as well as introducing new elements. Each level awards 1 to 3 stars based on how successful the player has been in minimizing casualties.
Although the game lists 100 levels available to unlock, there are in fact only 60 playable levels at this time. The developers chose to cut the number down to 60 in part due to time constraints, but have hinted that the remaining levels may be available as a free update in the future.
Visually, Monomino can best be described as adequate. The landscape is brightly-colored, cheerful and lacks clutter, but isn’t going to win any awards for art design or presentation. This type of blocky, simple design is likely to appeal to younger players (5-6 years old), who might have a harder time distinguishing shapes in a more detailed environment. Even in later levels, it is never difficult to tell where the babies are, or to miss important aspects of the environment like holes in the ground.
As for the game’s audio, highly repetitive, looped sound bites are the order of the day. While fitting with its simplistic nature, additional tracks would not have gone amiss in a title that encourages players to spend a great deal of time pondering over one screen.
Cheesy audio and visuals aside, Monomino could be forgiven much if the puzzle-based gameplay was engaging and entertaining. Unfortunately, outside of perhaps for the very young player, the game falls flat in that regard.
The level design is, for the most part, bland and uninspired. Solutions are almost always identical and require very little thinking outside of the box, with the exception of a small handful of levels. The key to a successful puzzle game of this type is introducing enough new elements without greatly altering the gameplay. Monomino fails to do this in a spectacular fashion.
Earning anything less than 3 stars (a perfect score) is nearly impossible on all but a few of the levels, robbing the game of the one thing that would have made it worth playing: challenge. Think Angry Birds – the sheer joy of earning the highly coveted three stars on some the game’s toughest levels were enough to forgive many of its minor irks. In Monomino, there is very little sense of accomplishment and the occasional glitch or bug, which might otherwise have been forgiven, become nuisances in the player’s quest to just be done with the game.
Monomino is not without at least some positives. As time-fillers go, it’s certainly not the worst and it isn’t so terrible that players couldn’t get a small amount of enjoyment from wasting an hour of the day playing it.
With tweaks in complexity, expansion to the original planned 100 levels, and improvement on audio, Monomino’s best opportunity for success is as a kid’s title. Porting for mobile platforms would be a logical next step, also, which, accompanied with a price drop, would improve the game’s overall appeal to a wider audience.
To summarize, Monomino is a simplistic puzzle-solver that lacks the complexity or engagement to take it to the next level. At best, the game is a useful time-killer and, at worst, a waste of hard-earned cash on an uninspiring point and click.
Monomino primarily suffers because it fails to stand out in a genre that has almost exclusively moved to the mobile platform. At a considerably higher price point for its content than similar games on aforementioned mobile platforms, Monomino doesn’t deliver anything close in terms of the detail and challenge players expect and, for that reason alone, is simply not worth the investment.