Beautiful, clean, designerly, deliberate, serene, and charming. You may not see these words used to describe a video game very often; however, in the case of Monument Valley, there is little else that seems fitting. While not entirely unique in its mechanics see Fez or Echochrome the simplistic underlying story combined with the ambient visual style makes for an experience well worth the $4.99 AUD asking price – a premium that mobile and tablet owners may not be used to paying. In experiential terms, the player engages with Monument Valley as a silent princess, navigating her both directly and indirectly through a series of 10 unique environments – the main means of interaction being in the rotation of level elements, essentially altering the perspective of the level entirely. The game entirely consists of the player solving spatial puzzles, thereby allowing the princess to move unhindered to the end of the level. Although the puzzles aren’t necessarily challenging, often just figuring out how the level works spatially and finding which elements can be interacted with can keep you busy for up to 10 minutes per stage.
If you decide to play Monument Valley, turning your sound right up and relaxing into the experience would be by far the best way to go about it. Along with the wonderful visual design, there is a fantastic minimal soundscape constantly playing in the background, peaking at staged points, with music strengthening the emotional elements of the story. In terms of story, the delivery is quite minimal, as a player can only expect to get a snippet of text here and there. Each chapter title tells you what to expect, albeit in a slightly cryptic sense, preparing you for the symbolism to look for in the coming chapter. Although there is never any explicit narrative, there is an ending that rounds everything off nicely, resulting in an opportunity for the player to sit back and ponder their experience.
Monument Valley is quite short, as may be expected for a mobile experience, but it is very different to the experiences that players may be used to on tablet devices/smart phones. The total play time comes in at around an hour and a half, but you will need to dedicate 5 to 15 minutes to each level, so it’s not as pickup and putdown in nature in comparison to similar titles in the mobile space. The replay value is quite high, however, as you will probably find yourself wanting to go through it again and see the symbolism embedded within the experience with more clarity.
Those who enjoy slower paced, experience-based games would do well to pick up Monument Valley. Don’t let the premium price deter you either – the culture of $0.99 apps being the norm definitely needs to change so that we can all benefit from titles like Monument Valley being released more often. The careful and loving design put into this title is clearly visible and would be a valuable experience to add to your gaming repertoire – even as a conversation piece for future reference.