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[Game Review] Monument Valley 2

So, the wonderful and touching Monument Valley got a sequel earlier this year, and whilst I’m normally keeping a careful eye on new releases, this one slipped under my radar. I’ll have to thank today’s guest, my begrudging acquaintance Ruth, for reminding me that this game exists and making me finish it ASAP so I could review. I really liked Monument Valley, so… yeah, this game’s got a lot to live up to. Here we go… I suppose I’ll start this time.

Benjamin: In the same vein as Monument Valley, Monument Valley 2 is an isometric puzzle game where you guide one or, since it’s a sequel, sometimes two faceless, featureless fucks through a level of inconsistent geometry where the laws of physics don’t apply. It’s presented with the same beautiful, mesmerising visuals that the first game had in spades, and I can’t really fault them at all. What are your thoughts?

Ruth: Yes, as always the design of the game is it’s best feature. It’s imaginative geometry and complete abandonment of the laws of physics has to be admired. Though I would say that compared to the later levels of Monument Valley, such as Forgotten Shores, there hasn’t been much advancement. But then does it really need any advancement? Probably not, so I can hardly fault it either.

Benjamin: I also cannot fault the storytelling this time. It’s all about a mother, Ro, and her daughter, who she somehow forgot to name. They travel together through the puzzles, and their story is told through brief excerpts of text told to us by ghostly figures between levels, and the animations of the characters themselves: Ro and her daughter hug, observe the spatial scenery they travel around in, and generally do a good job of characterising themselves through their actions rather than having a personality or even speaking to one another. I felt much more investment in the story of Ro and her child than I did in Ida’s story.

Ruth: I agree that the mother/daughter theme that the story explores this time is almost as beautiful as the design. But I’m sorry, you can’t say that Ida’s story didn’t deserve some investment. She had a whole game dedicated to her and Totem, along with Forgotten Shores and Ida’s Dream. The child and Ro were cute and all, but the extended narrative and greater number of levels surely allows for a deeper sympathy with Ida’s ordeal.

Benjamin: …Meh, I guess. But still, Ida’s Ida, and they’re not, so I prefer these two. The presentation and storytelling work together in order to create a masterful story; the colour and the calming, soothing music help to convey the character’s emotions, as many GCSE English Lit teachers probably told you.

Ruth: My GSCE English teacher didn’t really encourage creative writing, so I wouldn’t know. But yes, Todd Baker’s music far surpasses the original Monument Valley soundtrack  and is easy listening even without the game. Though I like that it retained the minimalist vibe.

Benjamin: Yeah, it was definitely pleasant to listen to. It didn’t last for nearly long enough – the game, as with the first one, is really short. Monument Valley 2 is really nice whilst it lasts, but it doesn’t really last long enough to be a properly enjoyable experience, I’d say. Just as I’m getting into the story and appreciating the puzzles, suddenly the puzzles are over and the game just tells me to bugger off.

Ruth: Can we really expect the game to be any longer than the first? They are the same price, and you do get an extra two levels anyway. Plus, I’d prefer they roll out more levels over the next year, like they did with the first game, so that we get new levels to play. Plus, would you still appreciate the beauty of the levels if there were lots of them?

Benjamin: I mean, yeah, OK, the levels were pretty beautiful. The mechanics really surprised me in the second half. Whilst the first half made leaps and bounds in mediocrity by essentially being ‘more Monument Valley 1’, but some of the new mechanics introduced in the second half’s puzzles, such as the trees that grow in light and the totem-with-a-door-stuck-on were really fun to use and genuinely kept me interested, as a major character death in a prime time TV show might keep me watching for another few episodes.

Ruth: Exactly, it’s enough to keep you interested, but it doesn’t exhaust the future possibilities of the game. If a negotiator gives away their strategy at the start, they have nothing to negotiate with. If the designers of the game utilise every new possibility, then where are they going to go next. I agree though that the tree level was particularly aesthetic.

Benjamin: The levels were certainly aesthetic, but one thing that irked me was the inconsistent difficulty curve. The final chapter’s puzzles were ridiculously easy compared to some of the ones before it, and I found that it was a bit of an anticlimax. I would’ve liked a more stable curve of difficulty, much like Monument Valley: The First One had.

Ruth: I would argue that you don’t need there to be a steady curve of difficulty progression. For Monument Valley 2, all of the game’s fundamental mechanics are in place so no one level needs to be harder than the last. Sometime you need the relief of the easier levels interspersed with the harder levels. Although, as a different improvement point, it would have been nice for there to be a some narrative link to the original story, or at least some suggestion of where this narrative fits in.

Benjamin: Yeah, the narrative this time around was vague as hell. I did like the fact that we were making the sacred geometry rather than sheepishly returning it like last time, but to have virtually no reference to Ida was a little bit disingenuous. I did like the lack of the crow assholes though because really, fuck those guys and their screamy beaks.

Ruth: #loveforthecrows

Benjamin: …We’re done here.

[Game Review] Monument Valley
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