Monument Valley made me smile a lot. After sitting down with it for about an hour and a half, playing through to completion, my only issue is that I wanted to stay in that world a little longer. It’s a short, beautiful experience, and I think you should see it for yourself.
As much as I’ve been enjoying FTL, HearthStone and Dark Souls in the last few weeks, those games are about a lot of quick, strategic thinking without room for error, or you’ll face a quick lash of defeat. In Monument Valley, you can’t ever lose. There isn’t a fail-state. You won’t reload because you missed a jump, or because you twisted a puzzle so badly that it was unwinnable. Monument Valley is mellow. It expects you to use your brain a little, but it never punishes you for taking your time to take in the scenery and just relax.
If you’ve ever seen an M.C. Escher painting, you’ll be one step closer to grasping the intricacies of the game’s level design. Impossible pathways stretch apart and fold in on themselves, helping you make your way toward further adventure. Each level is designed as a self-contained puzzle box, in which you can spin, rotate, or otherwise move, to get your character, Ida, from one place to another. If there is a gap with no way across, you might be able to spin the ceiling into view so that it looks like a part of the floor, and then it magically becomes that. However you see the environment is how it tangibly becomes, with the concept becoming more complicated as you progress. Walkways come into existence simply by changing your point of view, and the moments of revelation when you solve a puzzle happen rapidly as your brain becomes attuned to thinking outside of traditional level design.
The game itself is a masterful work of art, and the designers themselves have said that any screenshot from Monument Valley could be your new wallpaper. They weren’t joking. The art style here is incredible, each stage is filled with color and visual effects. On just the second level of the game, you see Ida’s dress blowing in the wind, along with bright blue flagpoles waving and green bushes swaying in the breeze. The sound design is just as well done, as slow, sparse instrumental tracks build to the sense of exploring the unknown. Spinning a level will play a melody as it turns, and when platforms appear they blink into the world rhythmically to a tune.
There are so many wonderful moments that I won’t ruin here, but I can almost guarantee that this game will make you really, really happy. The sense of being enveloped in this world reminded me a lot of Journey and Fez (with a light touch of Team Ico), as I trekked across strange castles and spun the world around and around. I had the biggest grin on my face when I realized a tool I was using was actually a new character I was being introduced to, and the first time I walked up the side of a wall I just started giggling happily. Monument Valley is pleasant in almost every sense of the word, even when its mysteries dive deeper into some of the stranger, darker sides of its world. If you’re interested in seeing one the smartest, prettiest, and most unique iOS games this year, check out Monument Valley on iTunes. While I still wish there was more of it, I’m glad I went on the adventure.