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[Game Review] Monument Valley

The mobile phone market is a bit like an ageing celebrity – I used to respect them, but now I just regard them with disinterested glances whenever they appear in the news whilst I sigh and wonder if we can ever return to the way things were. It used to be a place of innovation and creativity, where enraged fowls and rope slicing could occur on a daily basis; nowadays, the physics puzzlers and endless runners have been replaced by war games and free-to-play-but-not-really games, both of which really get my goat so hard that they start choking it.

I understand that the mobile market is now geared towards middle-aged men and young hip twenty-somethings who play games in the five minutes on the bus or during a lunch break, and so the style of games that have become popular have changed too, but I feel like some soul has been lost from the market as a whole. Every single sodding game is a ‘clash’ or ‘war’ of something, and when it’s not that, it’s something ridiculous like Word Cookies or Piano Tiles, the latter of which inspires the same kind of robotic monotony as one would expect from a 12 hour shift at the blandness factory.

Don’t get me wrong, there are still good games, and in fact, it’s one of these good games that I’d like to discuss. I know I’m supposed to be critiquing, but I genuinely can’t think of anything bad to say about Monument Valley. I replayed it this week to remind myself of it, and to nitpick, but I was left feeling just as satisfied as last time.

So, Monument Valley is an isometric puzzle game on the mobile market, and you play as a featureless, voiceless, blank, uninteresting princess called Ida. You might mistakenly believe that being a princess counts as personality, but you would be wrong, and that’s why I’m the reviewer and you’re not. Your job is to control Ida and defy physics until the game says ‘well done’, and the first thing one notes about Monument Valley is the presentation – the game is visually spectacular, simple yet perfect. Of course, this needs to be the case because of the aforementioned defying physics – the puzzle in this game is visual, as Ida has the strange ability to walk onto platforms regardless of their 3D depth. From this simple premise, as you can imagine, things start to get very confusing very quickly.

Controls are easy to pick up, though that’s a common trend in mobile gaming; simply tap where you want Ida to go and if she can be bothered and she’s in a good mood, she’ll walk over there. If it’s physically, spatially and literally impossible to get to that place, she’ll sullenly refuse to move like a teenager being asked to do some chores for once in their entitled fucking life.

The story of Monument Valley is pretty interesting as mobile games go, because it’s there, but it’s not in your face like a buff angry dude who you just bumped into. You don’t even really need to know the story if you like the puzzles, but knowing the story helps you understand the context behind the puzzles… so I’ll try to explain. Here we go:

You’re Ida and you’re a princess. A long time ago, there was some “sacred geometry” and from what I can tell, the previous royalty looked after the geometry whereas Ida, as an angsty teenager, stole the geometry for… temporal giggles, I guess? Either way, I think your mother dies at some point, probably to make you get off your princessy bottom and sort your geometry out. Wow, that wasn’t even supposed to sound wrong but it certainly did.

What follows is an epic adventure where you alternate between the three key states of matter: solving puzzles, not solving puzzles and getting screamed at by crows. However, like I said, the presentation is appealing and the story doesn’t often get in the way of solving puzzles (which is what you’re mainly there for) so it all works nicely together, like tea and a biscuit working in perfect harmony. The ending is absolutely charming and it brings every part of the game together – though me, being the kind of guy I am, found it sickeningly saccharine.

I suppose if there is one criticism, it’s that Monument Valley is not a very long game. There’s only 10 chapters in the main game and you can get through it in a fairly short amount of time; of course, this is easily countered by the fact that it is a mobile game, and as we’ve already established, games on a mobile device are played on bus rides and lunch breaks, unlike me, who beat the game in two sessions of about an hour each. So yes, it’s not long, but if you sample the game properly, it is exactly as long as it needs to be, and if it’s the puzzles that really make you cream yourself with excitement, and you need more, then there’s extra DLC that provides more fun isometric stuff to fuck around with to your heart’s content.

I don’t think I really need to say much more than that. Play it! It’s one of the best mobile games out there, and absolutely worth your time, with an engaging and visually stunning world, a story that is conveyed with minimal amounts of dialogue, instead having a heavier focus on visual storytelling and a delightful protagonist who looks slightly more like a KKK member than I think the developers originally intended…

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[Game Review] Monument Valley 2

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