How do I begin to describe Monument Valley? On a basic level, it is an iOS game developed by ustwo, using geometric shapes, Escher-like perspective and a charmingly minimalistic amount of music. But truly, it is so much more. It is an engaging experience that draws you into its world. Though the adventure may not last very long, it is certainly one you’ll enjoy taking and exploring.
The very first thing you’ll notice about Monument Valley is how beautiful everything in the game is, whether it’s just the menu or the actual environments. Though the graphics are simple, they’re absolutely gorgeous. Watching the pieces of architecture pop up against the contrasting backdrops make every screen look like a living piece of art rather than just a stage in a video game.
In Monument Valley, you must help the silent princess Ida navigate her way through the architectural mazes, twisting the world around and using perspective to your advantage. What might have been a wall before could be manipulated to act as a bridge for the princess. Platforms can turn into stairs and whole worlds can be spun around to a different perspective.
The story is very sparse, but Ida will meet different characters on her journey. They help flesh out bits of the narrative, but most of Monument Valley focuses on the gameplay and the exploration of the world. Each level almost feels like a unique character, with the features in the architecture telling and inferred story. And while all of the characters might be silent, and not all of them are humanoids, there are certain parts that left me feeling a little wistful as I had to say goodbye to certain characters that I had come to view as partners. That’s saying a lot for a “simple” iOS game like this.
The controls in Monument Valley are incredibly easy to understand, letting you tap to move Ida and giving you the freedom to move pieces of the environment. If you can interact with an object, it’ll usually be marked with several raised circles or some other feature that indicates that you can manipulate it. This can include being able to twist the world around to give you a different perspective, raising platforms, twisting bridges around or moving columns. One way or another, you can create new paths for Ida to take.
The puzzles are never overly difficult, but some might elicit an “aha!” or two as you figure out the solutions. You’ll likely find yourself entranced by the world and looking forward to the next clever way you can manipulate the architecture to help Ida on her way. An added, incredibly-satisfying bonus is the audio feedback you hear after manipulating part of the world. This can either come in the form of piano keys playing, guitar strings being plucked or simple chimes. It’s a pleasant touch that makes the world that much more charming to explore.
Monument Valley might seem a mite steep, as far as iOS games go, at $3.99, and you can finish the experience in a short amount of time, but it is worth every cent. You’ll find yourself entranced with each level and thinking about the geometry in ways that you never thought possible. It’s very much like the indie hit, Fez, but on a more muted, smaller scale. This is an absolutely gorgeous game that must be experienced by anyone with an iOS device.
This review is based on a purchased copy of Monument Valley for iOS