Monument Valley

One of the Most Beautiful Games You'll Play

We should start by saying that Monument Valley is one of the best looking games available on Android or iOS. If it is hyper-realistic graphics you are after, then you should go elsewhere. But in terms of the art style and execution, Monument Valley is absolutely stunning. You play as a silent princess named Ida, who appears to be traversing the game's ten levels looking for forgiveness. More than that we are not told. Developer by Ustwo, it is a pleasant oasis in amongst most of the other games for handhelds and is one of the occasions where games can begin to come close to art. But it does have a drawback, which we'll come on to later.

When you start playing and begin to put yourself in the shoes of the Princess, you can start to imagine why she is on this journey. The journey itself centers around isometric puzzles. Much like in quite a few others games, such as the popular Fez and Echochrome, you rotate elements in the game world to create a path that the Princess can traverse. She also has enemies to overcome, in the form of Crows, who prowl around the levels and block her route to the finish.


You are required to find ways around these using the optical illusion effect that is central to all of Monument Valley. They are more intelligent than mere patrolling enemies, however, and will destroy your hard work by undoing switches that you may have pulled, in which case you have to find ways to keep the Crows at bay before activating them.

There isn't really a way to fail at Monument Valley - you just keep experimenting with the many interactive elements on each level until you find a way through. Even the Crow people can't actually ruin your game, they just block you off and force you to try a different approach. They have a brilliant design, fitting in wonderfully with the rest of the game's visuals, and are a clever way to mix things up. The challenge in Monument Valley is working out which part of the level you need to move to get the Princess to safety.


Controls take the form of tapping on the screen to direct Ida to where you want her to go. She will not bother to move if there is no clear route to the destination, and you will then need to work on the solution. You may have to use levers and switches to pull parts of the level upside down, bearing in mind that at first glance some of the solutions will look completely illogical until the final piece is in place and the optical illusion is completed.

Music and graphics need to be talked about in the same breath, as the developer themselves have said that the game should be appreciated almost as art - with each level taking the form essentially of a painting. It would be remiss not to say that the level looks like an M.C. Escher painting, and indeed it does, with elaborate stairways seemingly leading to nowhere until looked at again from another angle. The colors, shading and overall aesthetic to this game is fantastic. The music, while not in your face is subtle and adds a needed ambiance to proceedings. It is certainly true that you could hang a picture of one of the levels on your wall and people would not think you were crazy.


There are only ten levels in the game, and some of them take less than ten minutes to complete. This leaves you with a play time probably around an hour to 90 minutes. For a game that costs a few dollars in a marketplace of free-to-play offerings, that will sound like a bad return. And indeed, the developer haven't done much to try to get players to come back to get more for their money - there is no replay value short of wanting to experience a great looking level again.

Despite all this, the tight controls and beautiful visuals make it worth the money, as you are paying for something you will want to show off to your friends - a good example of how games can begin to approach art. There will be few who will feel short changed after experiencing the finesse of Monument Valley's offering, and for a game this short, that should be high praise indeed.
4.1 / 5.0
 
review by MongooseGeneral | Jul 15th 2014


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