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Moncage Review – Think Outside The Box

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In a dark, empty room, on a small table, is a cube. Moncage immerses players directly into the action with a few quick notes on how to manipulate this multifaceted object. It instructs you to connect similar objects found on the different planes of the box by rotating the cube and looking at things from unique perspectives. At first glance, the challenge seems simple. However, as the game progresses, the puzzles become more and more sophisticated and the seemingly unrelated scenes reflected on the sides of the cube begin to weave into a narrative. I just wish the story had more substance.

Each side of Moncage’s six-sided cube displays a separate thumbnail – like a window into various environments. Objects in one scene align with objects in another if the player rotates the cube in the correct perspective. My first objective at Moncage is to open a suitcase displayed on one side. Inside are a teddy bear, a toy truck, and various children’s toys. The minimalist aesthetic showcases the shape of each object, but not the fine details, resulting in a dreamlike tone that complements the surreal gameplay. The simplistic appearance is also crucial in allowing players to piece together optical illusions and progress through the experience.

With nothing more to do in the first panel, I rotate the box to the left, finding a broken dump truck stuck in front of a factory. Since the trucks in both panels have the same color and lines, I turn the cube so that the front half of the child’s toy in the first scene lines up with the rear half of the vehicle on the other side of the cube. It does the trick, and the newly repaired truck rolls onto the road.

Even though this initial solution is not difficult, it leaves me with the feeling of being accomplished. Moncage reproduces this feeling over and over again in new and imaginative ways, making it a truly rewarding puzzle game. For example, in my favorite section, I have to switch from one side of the cube to the other, quickly matching pieces of benches, water tanks, reservoirs, etc. in a Rube Goldberg machine to allow a small object to go through each thumbnail without stopping. Stringing it all together and getting the timing right was rewarding in the same vein of beating a giant boss in an action game.

However, some answers are not apparent. Like many puzzle games, neglecting some small onesl detail sometimes let me bang my head against the wall. For example, on one level, I could tell that a radio antenna would fit a utility pole perfectly, but for a while I didn’t realize that I needed to light up a scene to make the objects look the same. color before they can match. Fortunately, there is a creative, efficient and robust hint system. At any time during the game, you can press a button to make important items glow. The advice is subtle and feels more like a nudge in the right direction than a direct line to the solution. If that’s not enough, the following tips offer written clues, and once you’ve gone through them, the game offers a short video clip showing the puzzle solution. This was very helpful in situations where I had the right idea but wasn’t specific enough to save the solution. I find this hint system really appealing. It effectively combats the frustrations of typical puzzle games, but doesn’t just make asking for help feel like a loss.

As I progress through the game, I find that what at first seemed like random, unrelated paintings, were actually chunks from a larger, holistic story. Typically, this kind of storytelling fascinates me, but Moncage’s story didn’t grab my attention. Overall, the story is too nebulous to make an impact. It doesn’t help that much of the narrative is told through carefully hidden photographs throughout the game, which means players can easily miss important plot elements. There are undoubtedly evocative moments – several photos are dedicated to the subject’s war experiences, both good and bad. One image, for example, captures a fun outing at the fair seemingly marred by the veteran’s traumatic reaction to the fireworks. There are also some interesting moments when the pictures allow me to understand something new about a place that I visited as part of a previous puzzle, especially at the end. However, I stepped away from the game wishing to learn a bit more about the underlying story and not have to piece together the ambiguous events myself.

Moncage is a clever puzzle game, and its perspective-based puzzles stretched my imagination as each scene flowed into the next beautifully. The narrative could have hit harder, and sometimes I felt like I had to line things up perfectly for the game to accept the correct answer, but the title of Optillusion is a challenge worth taking on.

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