App Reviewed on: iPhone XR
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If you’re going to base a game around a gimmick, it better be a good one. This is doubly true if your gimmick involves a trade-off with something usually taken as a given for mobile gaming: convenience. MonkeyBox #1: Polarized! is an adventure game that does not seem to understand these guiding principles. This is a game that is based entirely around taking snapshots of your surroundings with your phone, and it’s a sloppy, unreliable experience that you can only play in certain situations.
A picture says about 10 words
Monkey Box #1: Polarized! gets its strange name from apparently being the first part of an adventure series. In this inaugural outing, you are being fed a story from a narrator who is telling you about the time they lost their finger. To help “remind” this character details of the story, you are occasionally asked to take a photo of an object to unlock another piece of the story.
The first odd thing to note about Polarized! is the way it unveils its narrative. Aside from the photo puzzles, the text from the narrator arrives on screen one line at a time, and you have to tap on the screen to bring up a new line. This may sound like a minor annoyance, but it’s actually really disorienting. Only being able to see one line of a story at any given time without being able to look back for context makes it really hard to follow what’s going on in Polarized!, though it probably doesn’t help that the game isn’t the most coherent piece of writing to begin with.
When it comes to the actual gameplay of Polarized!, things only get more confusing. The puzzles and hints the game gives you for what to photograph are fairly straightforward, but why they aid in the storytelling at all isn’t very well explained. Polarized! also doesn’t do a great job of recognizing what you’re taking photos of, and in some cases doesn’t really seem to care.
Here’s a couple examples of what I’m talking about. One puzzle clearly asked me to take a picture of my hand and it accepted a picture of the floor. There was also a time I needed to take a picture of an umbrella, and—once again—a shot of the floor was sufficient to move on. I could keep going on, but I think you get the idea here.
Something to note about all this is that Polarized! seems to be doing something to assess my photos, as there were also times where the game frustratingly wouldn’t accept submissions even when they seemed like perfect puzzle solutions. One instance of this that comes to mind is a flower photo that apparently wasn’t flower-like enough for a puzzle looking for a flower painting. In lieu of being around any other flowers, my only choice was to close the game and only play it next time I was near flowers.
Picture (im)perfect ending
The lack of consistency between what Polarized! accepts as puzzle solutions vs. not is pretty frustrating, especially considering the game can sometimes penalize you for it. That is to say that if you submit a photo that gets rejected enough times, the game moves on to the next story bit anyway while ignoring any kind of insight your photo might have lent to the scene.
I personally took these penalties in stride, as anything that could get me through Polarized! faster seemed fine by me. Upon completing this game, I am even more convinced this was fine because its story turned out to be really dull and seemingly pointless.
The bottom line
MonkeyBox #1: Polarized! is equal parts inconvenient and confusing, plus its narrative doesn’t do much to keep you engaged with it. What it does have is an interesting idea at the core of it. I just wish that was used to better effect in a better game. Perhaps this will happen in MonkeyBox #2.