Geometric allusions and architectural exploration create the core of the breathtaking world of Monument Valley. What’s so unique about this game? Can you say M.C. Escher?
If you aren’t familiar with Escher, think of surreal artwork in an architectural setting. Escher’s artwork showed impossible scenes, stairways that never end, mirror images where you cannot decide what’s real and what isn’t and other mind-bending displays of graphic artistry.
Monument Valley took the core of Escher’s work and transformed it. Each level of the game was carefully composed to work on a visual and interactive level. The entire game is graphic eye candy at its best. The overall point of this puzzle-based game is to navigate Ida, the Silent Princess, through a puzzle/landscape — and it’s the most fascinating game I’ve ever experienced on an iPad.
So how is a game an illusion? The spatial puzzles rotate around planes. When you’re trapped, it’s because you literally can’t see how lines connect. A gap in a bridge isn’t a gap if you change your — the gamer’s — angle of eyesight. Huh?
To make things even more interesting there are a levers, pulleys, pressure panels and sliding buildings hidden within levels to help you navigate the Silent Princess to the end of each level. Occasionally, Ida even defies gravity, though you get a warning when you’re about to play a level on a different axis. There are rules, after all.
The overall puzzle challenge doesn’t sound very original, but the visuals make the game amazing. I don’t mean that the game is beautiful and therefore worth playing, even though it is. I mean the visual challenges of the game actually are just that – challenging. This game bends the way your mind perceives space.
The dream-like music and pastel colors add to the surrealism of the experience. The combination of the two creates a sense of serenity that, when paired with the puzzles, is almost meditative.
The tiny princess isn’t the only character involved in this game. You occasionally have the help of an obelisk called Totem. I don’t know where he comes from or his back story, but he’s sweet enough to turn up when needed.
The villains of the game are called crow people and, even though you can’t die, these crow people block your path and slow down your progress. Occasionally, they’re part of a more complex puzzle, where you have to move the crow people to different areas of the game in a certain order to continue.
Monument Valley has been compared to PC games like Ico and Journey. For $3.99, and for iOS gameplay, that’s incredible. In fact, the artwork is so powerful that it took 10 months to build 10 levels. They’re available as prints, too. The designers wanted to create a game so beautiful that literally any screenshot was frame-worthy. And they have thoroughly succeeded.
The original game consists of 10 levels total, which take the average person anywhere from 2-3 hours to complete. That might sound short, but it’s worth it. Plus, there’s an expansion available that provides an additional 8 levels for people like me who can’t get enough of this game.
Take the time to play this elegant masterpiece. You’ll enjoy it from every angle and axis you find. My only complaint? I ran out of levels.