An isometric M.C. Escher-inspired, pastille-coloured puzzle platformer takes shape in hit indie release, Monument Valley. Read on for our full review.
All the most successful indie games share some key hallmarks. Great artwork and sound of course, but a sense of mystery goes a long way, as does an intriguing game mechanic or two, and these are all things that Monument Valley offers up in spades.
It strikes that beautiful balance of making something incredibly complex in its construction, elegantly simple to understand. Level design has the same head-scratching genius of titles like Portal and the Indie ingenuity of Braid.
Aside from the very first level, which explains that tapping moves Ida, the little white princess, along a path, there’s no instruction at all, nothing, just piece instances of her story as she travels through this strange, geometric landscape.
Monument Valley is a stunning game from the offset. Divided into ten levels, each has its own unique feel, with a separate colour palette in each instance. But it’s clear that all of these ten locations are part of the same mysterious, ancient civilisation, something you’ll soon come to realise along your journey.
Just as with the distinctive art style, the soundscape is engrossing too. There’s a warm synth soundtrack that draws on middle-eastern influences, just like the world’s architecture does, and the sound effects also share in this immersive quality.
Whilst the art and sound are phenomenal, the ‘aha’ moment comes when you interact with the world outside of Ida. Pulleys, sliders and handles all serve to manipulate the path that she can walk, sometimes by moving a platform here and there, but sometimes revolving the entire world around her.
Fans of M.C. Escher will love the isometric level design. Sometimes traversing a gap is as simple as taking a different perspective on things and the journey to the end of each level isn’t always what you’d expect.
The most challenging puzzles will without doubt leave you scratching your head, but the game’s never so tough that you’ll want to throw your phone across the room, Flappy Bird style. This is a sophisticated puzzler, one that wants to hand you both equal parts engrossing gameplay and an intriguing story in one pastel-coloured package.
The journey that Ida takes will answer some of the questions as to the world of Monument Valley, but not all of them and that’s part of the fun. The ten stages will take between one and three hours to complete, but if you played like we did, you’ll probably end up powering through it all in one sitting.
Developers UsTwo have also revealed that they have more ingenious ideas that they want to try out and will hopefully bring to Monument Valley in a future update.