There's an innate joy in playing something as wonderfully creative as Monument Valley. This iOS title has flavours of Fez and Echochrome (with a sprinkling of ICO), but it's also rather unique. It's a perspective focused puzzle game set in an M C Escher style world, where waterfalls infinitely flow and paths loop round impossibly. The focus of Monument Valley is to guide a princess to the end of each stage, by moving parts of the level round and shifting your perspective to make illogical paths through the environment. Does perspective make it look like a higher block is on the same level as a lower one? If so, you can walk safely from one to the other. The geometry is only ever as it appears, not as it really is.
Monument Valley is a pure puzzle game, but it is rarely challenging. It gives the player a serene experience where they are never frustrated, but somehow always satisfied. The joy of Monument Valley is in seeing what it has to offer, looking in awe as moving a piece of a level causes a creative turn of events and a new path. The world is so beautiful and intriguing that just manipulating it is enjoyable. You have to think out your moves for sure - there is a consistent logic to the games impossible architecture after all - but no puzzle is ever a road block.
There is usually only ever one thing to do and a real momentum that results from a constant sense of progress. Puzzles are laid out one step at a time (for the most part) and no single step is particularly complicated. Some steps are clever, but you soon work out that there are only a couple of things you can actually do. The game then becomes which one of these things can be utilised for progress. Certain puzzles seems like head scratchers to start with, but once you realise your abilities the solution comes with ease.
This serene style of puzzle solving may turn people off, but challenge isn't the appeal here. Monument Valley captures the joy of mere interaction. It's wonderful to see how you can change the world around you and how it is all put together. The simple act of turning a valve with your finger can be enough to cause awe and this is a very impressive feat.
The game doesn't last particularly long, but at four dollars this is hardly surprising. The look and feel of the game are more than enough to make it very worthwhile. The look itself is very reminiscent of Fez, but distinct enough. As previously mentioned, every stage looks like an M C Escher painting - brought to life with fabulous pixel art. It isn't just the artstyle that is so strong though, it is how it is used. The creative level design works great for gameplay, but it also just looks amazing. Every level could be a work of art.
The atmosphere of Monument Valley is also impressive. There's a strong feeling of isolation, but not an antagonistic one. There's a peaceful loneliness to the game and an air of mystery. The princess has some business in this land, but that business is a secret. Story telling is somewhat vague, but this works. It all adds to the genuine serene nature of the game, something that just washes over you as you play it. It's a game that rewards engagement, but also rewards a passive participation. Everything seems to be geared towards the feel of playing the game and it's a rousing success.
Monument Valley is the app stores best game in a while. It's the kind of game you will want to recommend to everyone you can, as its appeal seems pretty much universal. It's incredibly enjoyable and wonderfully creative, a pure pleasure to play.