App and game reviews by Mobilism's Android Reviews team
Feb 18th, 2016, 5:23 pm

Game: Monument Valley v2.5.18
Developer: ustwo
Category: Puzzle
Price: $3.99
IAP: $1.99

Monument Valley is an illusory and surreal exploration through fantastical architecture and impossible geometry that is beautifully rendered in three dimensions, and even sometimes four. Within chapters of bewildering environments, your daunting task is to lead the silent Princess Ida throughout Monument Valley to restore the Sacred Geometry that comprises this odd world on a quest of forgiveness. Classifying this title is difficult as it's a puzzle game at its core, yet infinitely dazzling in a therapeutic manner that offers a unique experience in relaxing aesthetics. While eluding any specific details so as not to spoil this enjoyable experience for anyone, my focus here will be more of an overview of observations regarding generalities and commentary of the relative production values.

Monument Valley was designed to deliver sensory stimulation through zen-like atmospherics, ethereal audio texturing and extremely captivating settings that incomprehensibly baffle the mind throughout the entire fantastic journey of Princess Ida. If you were to combine the mathematical structural art of M.C. Escher, along with the mysterious and mesmerizing nature of the Lament Configuration, you would arrive at Monument Valley's amazing level design, which is inarguably the primary attraction from start to finish. Inspiration for the uncanny architectural anomalies largely draws from religious, historical and high fantasy concepts of architecture that hypnotically capture the imagination within a dream state of equally tranquil atmospheres that soothe the mind and soul. There is most certainly a thriving creative force in the ingenious creation of these intricately crafted levels that leaves one breathless in contemplation and reflection, to the likes of which I have never before seen in a game. As time is of no concern or consequence, this lack of pressure allows one to completely absorb all surroundings in a leisurely fashion to enjoy every slight nuance of the charming Monument Valley universe. Almost reminiscent of a sightseeing expedition of lost ancient civilizations, thoroughly absorbing the sights and sounds of this enigmatic world can leave one in awe and wonder.

Adding substantially to the streamlined flow and ergonomic sensibilities of the game is the decidedly minimalist approach to the interface, which is all but eliminated during play minus a single stylish button leading to the settings. Navigating and negotiating the perplexing geometry of the levels is accomplished with simple directional taps and by manipulating specifically placed elements with swipe gestures. Pinch zooming is also supported to closely survey the surroundings, key into puzzle elements and to focus on areas for specific screenshots. Great consideration was given to present uncluttered visuals to compliment the immersive nature and calming effect generated throughout the entire experience. All aspects of production cater to this design philosophy seamlessly, which meld into a unified and finely polished presentation of exemplary conception. With all facets equally considered, it's almost unfitting and slightly inaccurate to classify Monument Valley as a simple game, but more of an awakening to one's unconscious with subtle messages of morality interwoven within the minimal storyline for good measure. As slight conflict will arise in the form of illusory puzzles with Crow People attempting to foil Princess Ida's progress occasionally, violence is nonexistent as the game inherently advocates peaceful methods of resolve. With positive symbolism and intended inoffensive measures to achieve goals, this title is ideal for all ages and for those eluding real world stress.

Complimenting the overall experience is a relaxing New Age type of ambient soundtrack that mixes well with the visuals; headphones or ear buds are highly recommended to enjoy this completely. Delightful sounds from interactive elements also perfectly blend well in timbre and volume to very pleasing extents. Tapping on Crow People will humorously display their implied vigor and tenacity, for example. The subdued pastel palettes of the game world and simplistic stylized textures of the structures play an equal role in conveying the thematic mood wonderfully, as well. Character animations are lifelike and render Princess Ida perfectly to the point of being adorable, as are the movements and physics of the interactive components of the stunning and bizarre buildings. Particle and fluid effects are so convincing and attractive that one could admire the pools, waterfalls and lava floes almost as an elective quest. As all these aspects converge into such a magnificent spectacle of perfection, the developers also included a specialized screenshot feature in options to generate customized images as fan art. You may frame a selected view, or zoom into a specific region with access to a convenient cropping function, then share the image through whatever means your device supports. Conducting a simple search on Google or Pinterest clearly demonstrates the affinity people have for this game as their creative use of these generated screenshots, to great effect, is a prime example. Obviously, the developers are well aware of the immense beauty in this project and are quite proud of their artistic creation to show off the product in this detailed fashion.

As with all pleasant dreams and endearing fantasies, they will ultimately reach an untimely end, which is yet another aspect in which Monument Valley excels. As the core game offers ten chapters, the Forgotten Shores expansion features eight, along with the included single bonus chapter called Ida's Dream, there are nineteen total chapters of available content for $5.98. The levels in the chapters gradually expand in size to include hub levels that connect to smaller stages towards the end; however, I completed all chapters in just over two hours, which is about the average completion time for most players. As the content is more enjoyable than challenging, and probably won't melt your mind with the level of complexity offered, the relative cost equivalent would be like paying for a movie ticket at the theater. The course of the game is inherently linear, though you can play completed levels in any desirable order; ultimately, immediate replay value is rather low once you finish the game in entirety. Some players might enjoy replaying it to soak in all the details they may have missed the first time or generating screenshots for fan art, though 250 megabytes is a large chunk of space to occupy for something already completed.

Fortunately, cloud saving is implemented that will allow you to revisit any completed chapter directly, and syncs that progress to other devices, in case you choose to delete and reload it at another time. It would be an incredible feat to implement a procedural generation engine within a cohesive format for a game like this to promote replay value, though I believe we are some years away from such a complex endeavor, even with this sizable development team. Infinite randomized levels would be even more of a dream than the current high production values, and would certainly warrant the cost and the storage space. Regardless, Princess Ida's journey provides an excellent case study regarding the finer points of game development, which demonstrates vividly what can be achieved through a unified creative vision, organization, communication and a deep passion shared by a talented team.

Given all aspects of this wildly engaging, beautiful and meticulously crafted piece of digital art, it also balances out with the cost of admission and will probably include more IAP content down the line. With the credits listing no less than fourteen developers, high production values were an obvious focus in Monument Valley, which ultimately decided this price point for the relatively short ride. Refreshingly, it is indeed rare to enjoy such a title with these resulting synergies in perfect harmony in such a way that it becomes an unforgettable experience that stays with us long after the last chapter.

  • A unique, atmospheric and engaging experience.
  • Incredible level design featuring fantastical geometry.
  • High production values that demonstrate superb quality.
  • Game design done right that will leave you wanting more.
  • Cloud saves, custom screenshot function and image sharing.

  • Relatively costly for the amount of content.
  • Current content is rated for just under three hours.
  • Required storage space will use about 250 megabytes.

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Reviewer rating: Image
Device/OS used: Galaxy Nexus, Galaxy Note 3, Nexus 7 2012, Nexus 7 2013 / KitKat v4.4.2, KitKat v4.4.4, Lollipop v5.1.1

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Mobilism: Monument Valley v2.5.18 (Unlocked)

Feb 18th, 2016, 5:23 pm