Mobile Games Revue: Monument Valley

monument valley level
sunset on the tower

It’s that time again! Last week, Mobile Games Revue discussed the side-scrolling action game, BADLAND. This week, we’re going to get a bit more whimsical, with the first major game from British developers ustwoMonument Valley. It is available on iOS and Android, for the relatively low price of $3.99.

Monument Valley is a puzzle game that toys with the idea of 3D space. The game has been compared, rightfully, to games such as Fez and Echochrome, and it also draws some pretty clear inspiration from MC Escher’s Relativity. But where Fez and Echochrome rely almost solely on the idea of turning the world to interact with it, Monument Valley uses it comparatively little. Some puzzles (like the one pictured at left) don’t utilize that mechanic at all. It is very much its own game.

As with most puzzle games, the story is not a major factor; this holds true for Monument Valley. The main character is a princess named Ida, who is traversing these puzzles to seek some kind of forgiveness. Aside from Ida, the only characters are the “Bothersome” Crow People – an obstacle in many of the puzzles, and the Pillar – both friend and gameplay element. The player controls Ida (and later, the Pillar) by tapping the screen to have her move. The obstacles she generally faces are relatively simple: gaps, walls, and heights, and they need to be overcome by the player moving the terrain around. The last obstacle, the Crow People, is a little different. They are NPCs in a sense, walking back and forth on set paths, but when Ida gets too close to them, they stand still and squawk in her face until she gives up and moves out of the way (sort of like my mother in law! canned laughter). It’s a small twist on the normal moving obstacle, but one that works well.

ida petting her friend
ida petting her friend

Whether you’re tapping to move Ida, dragging the Pillar around, or turning the levers that move the geometry into new configurations, you’re contributing to the soundtrack – each action produces a sound of some kind. The game itself does also have music, but it’s often very subtle, and almost meditative.

With its lovingly crafted, airy soundscapes and muted color schemes, Monument Valley feels more like a work of art than a game. This, unfortunately, also applies to the UI, which is a little more…interpretive than I would prefer (“So the circle is the credits and the square is the settings? What’s this diamond do? Hold on, did I just take a screenshot? How do I get to the previous level again?”).

monument valley screenshotMy other primary complaint with the game is that it’s relatively short. The puzzles are, by and large, fairly simple. Rarely did I get stuck on one longer than I had the patience to spend working it out. Because of this, even though there are a fair number of levels, there aren’t a lot of hours in the game. Having said that, there are two other level packs. The first expansion, titled, Ida’s Dream, was made free in 2015, and comes included with every Monument Valley Purchase. The more recent expansion, Forgotten Shores, is available for $1.99.

As one might expect of a game that’s first and foremost about the art, there are no ads in Monument Valley. There are also no microtransactions (aside from the aforementioned level packs). The price for the game itself was, in my personal opinion, very worth it. Length notwithstanding, it was a fun puzzle game and a beautiful sensory experience.

Katu

Cat lover, guild leader, gamer, consumer of coffee.

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