Not for the faint of heart.
Often, puzzle games tend to find themselves caught in a rather tedious conundrum. The integrity of many puzzlers lies within whether the game is capable of constructing and presenting legitimate puzzles that require the player to think long and hard about. The problem developers are faced with, then, is finding the proper balance between excellent puzzles and ludicrous difficulties. Games like The Talos Principal are filled with small, easily solved puzzles and an interesting plot. Others, like Myst or Schism, become grand surveys littered with mind bending dilemmas. Monumental finds itself imbued with a little bit of both. But if one thing is for certain, Monumental doesn’t care how difficult it is – for better or worse.
In monumental, you play as an individual investigating the disappearance of a research crew who were involved with understanding a complex alien world. To do so, you must solve a series of terrifically complicated puzzles. The puzzles provide a variation in difficulty, though even the simplest puzzle can be fairly tough, especially if you haven’t found all of the data pads. With that said, however, the game presents itself in a fresh style. It has been a long time since I’ve played anything like Monumental, but I can assuredly say it’s one of the most difficult puzzlers I’ve ever set my mind to.
The gameplay in Monumental, like most games of its genre, is extremely simple. You move with your WASD keys while clicking to interact with objects, data pads, etc. But where most modern puzzle games offer repetitious puzzles to fluff content, Monumental delivers unique challenges for each puzzle. For example, the access key to Hiro’s room is solved by finding Hiro’s discarded data pads with clues as to the number pattern (the numbers add up to 42 without duplicating a number; the first number is twice the third number, and the fourth number is one third of the last; the second number is 5). The access keys for the other quarters required recording sound samples to match piano tones and matching colors to complete a sequence. Once you’ve made it out of the facility, the world opens up to exploration. And the plot, as thinly layered as it is, can be grasped by reading the extra data pads left around the quarters and world.
It’s hard to grasp the exact length of Monumental, as I’m sure it can vary drastically from player to player. The first series of puzzles in the hangar took me a good two or three hours alone. The alleged game times I’ve seen online have ranged around the 11 hour mark, which seems about right. Some puzzles are finished quickly, and the game does offer a hint per puzzle if required, though the hints are sometimes as cryptic as the puzzle itself. Still, you can’t help but feel empowered when you’ve cleared one of those difficult puzzles.
The only real technical issue I had with Monumental was the occasional loading glitch. After completing the first area and stepping out into the alien world, the game sends you to a load screen. Unfortunately for me, it didn’t finish loading. The bar continued to spin, and I left it alone for ten minutes to avail. Once I completed two more puzzles and auto-saved, I quit; the next time I returned, the loading screen would not continue. There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason behind the loading glitch, and the game works more often than not, but it can get frustrated to have to force shut down the program.
When considering Monumental in retrospect, I am glad I had a chance to experience the nostalgic atmosphere and intense puzzles. As a fan of critical thinking and problem solving, especially in the way of gaming, few modern products offer the same depth to puzzles as Monumental. It’s certainly unforgiving, but with enough thought and perhaps the use of the hint button, Monumental is a solid, inexpensive game worthy of your time, money, and brain overload.