Monument Valley Review
Gameplay - 9.5
Presentation - 10
Lifespan - 5
Level of Freeness - 9
Monument Valley is an imaginative puzzle game that forces you to think outside the box to get through each level. It isn't very long but it's definitely a case of quality over quantity.
Monument Valley, from developers ustwo, is a fantastic addition to the puzzle genre, bringing all kinds of new elements to the fray. Levels disassemble, rotate, and spin all the way around at the touch of a finger, all while you navigate Princess Ida through mysterious monuments and meet their strange inhabitants.
Perspective is the name of the game in Monument Valley so you’ll have to have an open mind if you want to be able to wrap your head around it. Walking across impossible gaps and physics-defying platforms makes this game engaging, surprising, and challenging all at the same time, an unusual but refreshing combination.
The mechanics in Monument Valley are deceptively simple: tap on the screen to have Princess Ida move there. The trick is to manipulate the level’s various moving parts to actually allow Ida to get to where you want her to go.
Not only does each level have a variety of pieces to handle, from level segments you can move up and down to flipping the pieces on their heads, the actual path you make is dependent on your actual perspective alone, not real-world physics. The only real way to know what I mean is to play the game yourself but the screenshot above might give you some idea of what I’m talking about.
Most levels introduce new puzzle elements, often more than one at a time, although some do feel a bit tacked on. Things like the endless amount of buttons the game has you push starts to feel like a bit of a chore. That being said, most of the buttons also effect some sort of physical change to the level, something that’s always pleasing to watch in this quirky little game.
At one point, while you try to wrap your head around the perspective-warping puzzles, you get control of a creature that is essentially four 1×1 blocks stacked on top of each other. The creature is used to great effect and, when you eventually part ways, a small part of your heart will break. I guarantee it.
Overall, the gameplay in Monument Valley is extremely simple but at the same time quite complex. There are enough moving parts, shifts in perspective, and mind-bending puzzles to keep you stumped for a while. Each level offers something new and kept me on my toes and eager for more.
This game looks amazing. Every level looks fresh and crisp and the all the animations are incredibly smooth. The level design, while integral to the puzzle element of the game, feels surprisingly seamless, which is probably why finding those seams and pulling them apart is so satisfying.
The game is played in the vertical position of your phone or tablet, something I didn’t expect from a stunning game like this. Fortunately, this verticality lends itself to the towering feel of the monuments that Princess Ida has to scale. As you climb, it feels like you’re really going somewhere and not just wandering around a flat space.
The sound is minimal but well-chosen and provides a great atmosphere for the game as a whole. The squawks of the crow people you encounter are jarring at first but you get used to them and I eventually even started to enjoy the harshness of them. Add that to the serene sounds of fish flitting around and water falling from impossible waterfalls and you get an extremely immersive experience.
The story in Monument Valley, while not crucial to enjoying the game, is a little disappointing. Not much is explained at first, but you find out through your meetings with a mysterious stranger that you’ve wronged the people of the monuments and that you are now trying to right that wrong.
Frankly, if there’s any reason at all to play this game, it’s the visual presentation. The levels are gorgeous and unique and the characters are engaging. While the plot might not be what draws you in, the look and feel of each circuitous level will keep you enthralled.
Here’s where the game falls short. After about an hour and half of play, I was surprised to find that I had beat the entire thing. Despite a satisfying—if somewhat predictable—ending to the storyline, the game definitely felt unfinished.
The last level is so frustratingly hard that, when I beat it, I couldn’t help but want more. All I got was a quick wrap up to the plot and then credits. There were so many new elements of play that were introduced in those last few levels that I felt like it was a crime to let the game end the way it does.
That being said, Monument Valley is an extremely charming game and I’ve found myself going back to it and zooming through the levels just to watch all the animations play out again. Even though there are only ten levels (including a tutorial level), this still feels like a case of quality over quantity and, who knows, maybe they’ll even release a level pack in the future. Fingers crossed.
The game costs £2.49 (3.99 USD) and, as such, isn’t riddled with a lot of annoying ads or in-game purchases. While I felt as though the game was well worth the price, there are likely those out there that will think that ten levels does not warrant that much of an investment.
One of the biggest advantages of being a paid game is the level of immersion you get once you’re in the game. Unfettered by menus asking for £.0.49 for a hint or to skip a level, or, even worse, frustratingly out-of-place ad banners popping up every time you get past an area, I found myself deeply invested in the events of the game’s world because of how conceptually whole it was.
Every minute of Monument Valley kept me glued to my phone as I traced possible paths with my eyes and swiped around the screen, trying to find that one tricky piece that had to be spun to pass through the level. Navigating rotating platforms and surreal physics kept my brain in overdrive while I simultaneously took in all the amazing environments.
Unfortunately, the end came too soon and I was left feeling a bit short-changed but still satisfied. Despite its short length, the game packs a lot of punch, both visually and gameplay-wise. If you like thinking outside the box, this is the game for you.