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You Should Play: Monument Valley

Sarah Jacobsson Purewal | April 21, 2014
These days, keeping up with games can be a full-time job. So how do you separate the signal from the noise, the wheat from the chaff, the Temple Runs from the Temple Jumps? Allow us to help by regularly selecting a game You Should Play.

These days, keeping up with games can be a full-time job. So how do you separate the signal from the noise, the wheat from the chaff, the Temple Runs from the Temple Jumps? Allow us to help by regularly selecting a game  You Should Play.

In a world where Flappy Bird is a frustrating success, the ethereal and surprisingly poignant Monument Valley is a breath of fresh, creative air. Designed by indie developer UsTwo, Monument Valley is described as an "illusory adventure of impossible architecture and forgiveness," and it's easy to see why. The game relies on puzzles of perception, stunning visuals, and a trance-like atmosphere to extract wonder and emotion from its players.

You guide Ida, the "silent princess," as she wanders through an impossible, pastel-painted abandoned kingdom geometrically styled after the imaginations of the Dutch graphic artist M.C. Escher. At first, movement in the game is a simple tap on the part of the path you desire Ida to walk to. After a level or two, however, movement becomes increasingly complicated — though not overwhelmingly so — as your finger glides across the screen to rotate walkways, spin wheels, and manipulate perspective to create Escher-esque "impossible constructions."

As Ida passes through the deserted halls and walkways of the land — which I can only assume is called Monument Valley — she encounters a handful of other living beings. A ghostly figure speaks to her in short, ambiguous sentences. The mysterious, aloof crow people stride purposefully along walkways and squawk at her as she approaches, acting as unmovable obstacles in her path. In later levels, a friendly, sentient totem helps her navigate difficult landscapes.

If that doesn't sound captivating enough, here are three other features that make Monument Valley worthy of a spot on your home screen:

A matter of perspective: Monument Valley is a perception puzzle that feels refreshing and unique. The bulk of the game involves environment manipulation; as you maneuver the environment using wheels, levers, and sliding blocks to create viable paths for Ida, you're forced to also look at the stage as a whole to determine how different perspectives can alter in-game reality. In one level, rotating a path creates a Penrose tribar, which allows Ida to reach a higher plane as she strolls along the impossible route. 

The puzzle aspect of Monument Valley is not only decidedly different, it's challenging in a way that consistently feels stimulating rather than exasperating. Although the game offers few hints and clues along the way, its experimental nature ensures you'll spend your short time with the title doing — swiping, tapping, and moving Ida around — instead of growing frustrated and Googling game walkthroughs. Monument Valley is a short game, but its puzzles are inspired enough to woo even the most creative veteran puzzlers, while still being manageable for most casual players.

 

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