Monument Valley is a puzzle game showcasing optical illusions for smartphones. You play as the silent princess Ida, twisting reality, and exploring the secrets of these mazes and monuments they call “sacred geometry”.
Each chapter presents a different scenescape with its own corresponding color scheme and maze. These are inspired by different types of architecture while incorporating geometry, optical illusions, and other kinds of shapes. In order to get Ida across some if not most levels, you’ll have to interact with the environment to make bridges, and if that isn’t possible, you’ll have to manipulate the monument’s perspective.
The animation reminded me of Vectorpark‘s games and found that Windosill was one of the game’s inspirations. Nothing about the art becomes stationary, there’s always something moving, whether it’s the background, the characters, or the monument itself.
The game allows taking screenshots and in doing so, the option of zooming in becomes present. You get to notice the smaller details such as how Ida’s dress flaps from the wind and looks around, crow people moving its head the way a bird would in real life. The whole feel is very minimalist despite having complicated patterns and detailed designs.
Usually games offered on the smartphone don’t really follow a story; similar to how Candy Crush, Real Steel, and other games are structured, their main appeal is either the puzzles or the fights, and not so much the story (if any) at all. Monument Valley presents vague commentary by the figures you come across, and also from the sub-titles of each chapter which more or less make you wonder about the game or Ida’s background.
Monument Valley is also characterized by its serenity and dream-like feel. It’s a quiet game where each interaction / manipulation elicits sound effects that sound like they come from a music box. Ida’s actions and the environment make appropriate and realistic sounding sound effects and also have immersive elements added when necessary (e.g. extra reverb/echo to footsteps when walking in a cave). When faced with difficult puzzles, I’m the type to get frustrated (especially when I play 2048) but with Monument Valley, I’m more calm and exploring the puzzles create nice music as well so it feels somewhat more therapeutic as opposed to consciously wrinkling the crease between my eyebrows.
I was able to finish this game quite quickly; the puzzles aren’t too mind boggling and didn’t once make me feel like closing the game and giving up, although I haven’t played the added chapters (Forgotten Shores). It was very nice to view each screen although the whole play through felt short and unfinished. It’s definitely worth playing, especially to experience the art. It was very smooth and calming, and the way you get to twist reality really challenges the mind. Puzzles still retain its difficulty when replayed so solving it again isn’t too easy which still keeps the fun factor.
Rating: 8 / 10
Monument Valley won awards such as 2014 Apple iPad Game of the Year, Best 3D Visuals 2014 (Unity Awards), iOS Game of the Year (PocketGamer Awards 2015), and Contribution in Audio (Develop Awards 2014). More info on their website here.