Adventure Games: Monochrome Inc. and The Dungeon
- Designers: Matthew Dunstan, Phil Walker-Harding
- Publisher: Kosmos
- Players: 1-4
- Time: 2-3 hrs
- Age: 16+
- TImes played: 1 each with review copy provided by Thames and Kosmos
The Adventure Games system is new for 2019 – a different riff on the the “Escape room” genre which is continually to grow in size and variety. In this series of games, players work together to get through a story. Unlike many of the other games (including the EXIT series also by Kosmos), there is no time constraint in the Adventure Games line. Instead, players are encouraged to explore their surrounding and watch/listen to the story unfold. (THERE ARE SOME SUPER-MILD SPOILERS IN THE IMAGES. There is warning, but if you don’t want to see them at all, turn off the images in your browser, re-load this page, and read this without the pictures. I do not think seeing any of the pictures will affect your play of the game at all, but I think I should be 100% clear that there are some pics of actual game components below)
In the Dungeon: ” You wake up in a dank dungeon. It seems impossible to find your way out, especially since none of you can remember what brought you there. 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 to escape. Leave no stone unturned. “
In Monochrome Inc: ” 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. Teamwork makes the dream work.”
To set up either game, the starting room is placed in the center of the table. Each room card has a number of different places/things that can be interacted with. You’ll know that you can interact with them as they will helpfully be numbered.
The cards are organized into decks (room cards, adventure cards, mission cards, ending cards) and placed nearby. Each player chooses a character, takes the corresponding character card which explains any special abilities, and each gets their fair share of the 12 health cards to be distributed amongst the team.
Play goes around the table, and on a turn, the active player can move their character and then they take an action – this could be exploring the location on the card; it might be using an adventure card with a location, or it might be to combine two adventure cards together. In general, the action is resolved by looking in the big Adventure book which has numbered paragraph after paragraph. Find the one that you are looking for and read the passage aloud to the team to further the story.
NB: I should mention at this point that the games are now available on the Kosmos Helper App. I strongly recommend downloading and using this app to play the games. The app takes the place of the book, and you simply type in the number that you wish to hear, and if there is a corresponding entry, you can read/listen to the appropriate passage.
This negates one of the huge issues I had with the book which was you could invariably and inadvertently spoil things because you were able to see the other numbers available to be read as you searched for the passage that you wanted to read! For instance, say I had card 10 “chocolate” and card 22 “coffee”. I might try to look at paragraph 1022 when I’m looking for a tasty drink to bribe a security guard with. But, I might not be able to not see the number 1018 just above this and later in the game when I find card 18 “peanut butter”, I might already remember that there is a combo here. Or, if nothing else, I’ll know that chocolate is looking for other cards to play with.
When you use the app, this doesn’t happen. Also, the narrator in the app is generally a much better, louder and more articulate reader than we are.
Continue taking actions to move around the environment and interact with places and things until you get to the end of the chapter. Both stories are comprised of three chapters, and when you reach the end of that 3rd chapter, you’ll have learned the whole story- well… at least one possible path through the story. Depending on your actions and choices, you might end up going down a different path in the story from others.
Overall, the Adventure Games series might be better described as interactive fiction rather than a game. I say this because the story chugs along regardless of what you do; at some point, you’ll manage to get to the end of the chapter… There is no time pressure, and the rules even state that there is no way for a player to lose their last Health card – so you can’t even be killed in the story…
But, that being said, the pace of the game was enjoyable, and in retrospect, it is not much different from The 7th Continent, which is another story-based game that I have come to enjoy playing (as well as similar to the Choose your Own Adventure game from Z-Man which I’d rather not talk about any more than I have to). I think that so long as players are aware what they are getting into – the Adventure Games can be a compelling story-revealing activity. You have plenty of options to choose between, and though it might seem like the whole thing is on rails; there are still a few places where the story can take an irreversible change in path – there are some decisions which are found on adventure cards, and said card is then removed from the game after a choice is made. These decisions are clearly one-time things, and they could irrevocable alter the course of your particular story.
The stories here are fairly complex and complete, though I felt that The Dungeon was a bit more immersive and put together than Monochrome Inc. – though the slightly disjointed story was still enjoyable to discover. Of course, YMMV. You’ll never know until you play them yourself!
The games are re-playable theoretically, as you do not destroy any components while playing; however, I don’t really see that I would ever want to play the game again. While there are multiple paths possible (per discussions with Kosmos), many of the decisions would be similar, and I just don’t see myself repeating a 3-4 hour experience just to see a different ending. (Though I was a kid who went to the movies three times in a row on the same day to see the A, B and C endings of Clue).
I played The Dungeon all the way through in one long afternoon sitting, while we split up Monochrome Inc into chapters. Both ways were perfectly fine ways to experience the story, and the games are nicely split up into chapters to give you good stopping points in the story so that you don’t have loose ends to remember after a lengthy break.
For those looking for a nice cooperative story game, these two will certainly fit the bill. If you are looking for an Escape Room game with more puzzles, then I would probably recommend staying away from this set, and you should stick to the EXIT or Unlock series of games.
Until your next appointment
The Gaming Doctor