Monument Valley can be played from beginning to end in about 30-45 minutes. It took me two weeks. The reason was the pure desire to draw out every bit of this gaming experience. I ration only the best in my life, and Monument Valley is up there with wonderful things worthy of savouring and keeping around for as long as possible.
This charming debut from ustwo studios begins with a simple geometric puzzle, and a tiny faceless girl named Ida. On one end of the shape is Ida, the other end, a platform to reach, and below is a turning knob that manipulates the puzzle. The goal of every board is to get Ida to where she needs to go—a button, a door, or the final platform at every level. While the first board is meant to ease you into the game, at first glance it appears impossible, similar to the three-prong fork puzzle you’d find in a waiting room children’s book.
The puzzles get increasingly more tricky as you proceed through all 10 levels, the unraveling of the environment more gratifying with every end. It’s not the fetch-and-obtain satisfaction of adding apples to a pulley’s bucket, it’s the satisfaction of manipulating the puzzle with the knobs and pulls—like a carefully measured recipe—and watching as the world reveals geometric possibilities that you never saw before. The world quite literally unfolds for you, and it is stunning.
The smooth movement and construction of the geometric shapes and objects is mind-blowing when you realize that the talent at ustwo actually carried this world from imagination to creation. It quickly becomes clear that every little detail of this game was designed with care and attention—a work of art that is unique with every movement, every staircase and illustration. Monument Valley is a visual masterpiece, blossoming like the most fantastical pop-up book you could ever imagine, with equally as beautiful gameplay mechanics.
Some parts of the game brought back memories of one of my personal favourites, thatgamecompany’s Journey— the Arabic-influenced architecture, the simple small traveler, triangular in shape, and the sounds of chimes and gongs. And like Journey, Monument Valley was a relaxing and enjoyable game that was more than just a story to get through, but a visceral experience open to interpretation by its players.
While the social media world I reside in is composed of gaming adults who work within the games industry, many deeply inhaling these rare indie gems that can’t be shaken off, we sometimes forget the audience beyond us. Monument Valley is often listed under the children’s apps category, which leaves me envious of kids today who will begin their gaming life with experiences like this, ones that will challenge and wow them in very deep ways. The three-prong fork puzzle of my day was a start, but Monument Valley is the beginning of a whole new kind of experience.
//Image screenshots by ustwo.