Every so often, a mobile game is released that warrants recommendation. Monument Valley is one of those rare treats for the genre – applying the simplest mechanics to an experience altogether fresh and original.
Ustwogames has delivered a puzzle game for iOS that’s as interesting as it is beautiful. It can be finished in under two hours and offers minimal story elements, but what you get is well worth the $3.99 introductory price. Players take the role of Ida, a princess donning a coned hat, who must make her way through ten levels of mind-bending environments. Each area can be manipulated and rotated to open new traversable paths for Ida to progress forward, relying on optical illusion puzzles. Picture a game in which every location was a mash-up of the impossible structures from M.C. Escher’s imagination and the dreamlike, soft colors found in Japanese Woodblock art.
The developer admitted this project was rooted in discovery and perception, and that is very much the case as you step into its universe for the first time. There are no instructions or on-screen prompts. You quickly find that tapping on the path of Ida will make her walk in that direction and, as you explore the environment, more and more things become apparent. Solving each puzzle isn’t necessarily difficult, but they clearly aren’t meant to be – this is clearly built around providing a relaxing, cathartic, and memorable playthrough. Even the music, an ambient blend of strings and keys, provides the perfect backdrop for the easygoing, elegant adventure.
As you progress in certain environments, new areas will open and several levels are multi-tiered. A location that seems to have a simple path to the end will often turn out more elaborate than it first appeared. Walls will slide into new positions, bridges will flip upside down, spires will rotate, and sometimes entire structures will lift from the ground. In each instance, the playfield opens up for more exploration and an array of optical riddles so beautifully clever, you can’t help but smile.
Monument Valley hit the iOS app store this week and an Android version is currently in the works. It’s a completely satisfying experience and a breath of fresh air for the mobile market, which seems completely consumed with “free-to-play” candy-matching games and the like. It also follows the rules that, in my opinion, make for the best mobile software: you can play the entire game with one finger, it is immediately accessible and fun upon launching the app, and it can be played for any length of time for an equally rewarding takeaway. If you have an iOS device, grab this one as soon as possible.