Released: April 3, 2014
Reviewed for iOS
There is a common idea running around that all mobile games are low quality time wasters. This may be true of a lot of the free-to-play titles that reach the app store, but it is far from a universal truth. Tablet gaming is just another medium that talented game designers can use, and as such there are some exquisitely beautiful games, and Monument Valley is one of the best examples in recent memory.
Monument Valley tasks players with guiding a young girl named Ida on an abstract journey across MC Escher inspired environments. Each level has various points of interaction that might raise, lower, or rotate the different parts of the level (or the level itself). The solutions are not obvious unless you are willing to abandon your preconceived notions of perspective within a three dimensional space. For example, a stairway might connect to a platform in the foreground in one position and the background in another. My sons actually had a bit of an advantage in this game because they didn’t have thirty plus years of experience screaming at them about what “made sense”, they were willing to experiment more openly and when things defied their expectations. It wasn’t as mind twisting for them as it was for me.
All of these environmental puzzles are strung together through an ambiguous narrative where Ida is returning geometric objects to the ruins of a fallen civilization. Nothing is ever definitively spelled out, but that in itself matches the rest of the experience.
Family Gaming Assessment:
The abstract art style is hauntingly beautiful and lends itself very well to family play.
The stages have no real fail state so death never happens. In fact, the worst thing that ever happens to Ida is being squawked at by a crow person.
Monument Valley is full of challenging puzzles, but none so difficult that they are unsolvable. Once players train themselves to look for interaction points in the various levels, the solutions tend to spell themselves out logically.
Text is mainly used for story exposition, so reading is not really necessary to play the game. However, it is likely that children who are too young to read the story will have difficulty understanding the puzzles themselves. They will still be able to get through the game eventually, but their success will likely be a function of luck and time.
Monument Valley is an excellent experience priced at $3.99. This is more expensive than a lot of the other titles on iOS, but I believe that the game is strong enough to be worth it.