A work of art: Monument Valley is visually stunning. From the intricate spinning boxes that denote each level to the small finishing touches — such as brightly-colored spires and softly twinkling stars in the sky — every visual detail showcases why we should be clamoring for more games from independent developers. The game's pastel-colored landscape, which is optimized for tablet play, offers up crisp edges and alluring details that add atmosphere without busying up the clean design.
The game also features an evocative soundtrack that complements the storyline and adds weight to the fanciful landscape. Sound effects are not just limited to Ida's pitter-pattering steps and the crow people's squawking: Each moveable piece of the environment is also coupled with a musical scale, which helps you use your ear to lock pieces into the perfect position. It's not a perfect science, of course, since most moveable pieces serve multiple purposes as Ida moves through the level, but it does serve to enhance the thoughtfulness of the game.
The perfect package: I'll admit it: I'm cheap. For $4, I usually like to see more game. Monument Valley is just 10 levels long, and will take most players no more than three hours to complete. But it's not meant to be an endless runner or a physics game with approximately 5362 levels and three sequels (including a holiday-only sequel). It's designed to be the perfect package, tied up and wrapped with a gorgeous bow. Monument Valley is a short, casual game that quickly sucks you into its quirky, whimsical setting and then spits you out, leaving you feeling wide-eyed and satisfied, if a little off-kilter.
It's obvious, from the pretty, detailed landscape, the fantastic (yet oddly logical) game mechanics, and the haunting musical score, that developer has put its soul into this game. Everything about Monument Valley feels like it has been laid out, thought through, heavily developed, and then thought through again. The enigmatic storyline is both developed and vague, relying on emotions drawn from the player to truly express its strange gravitas. Each puzzle and movement is measured and calculated to move the player forward, yet at no time will you feel like you lack sufficient room to explore and puzzle-solve in your own, creative manner.
The game ends on the perfect note: Not with a blockbuster "Aha!" twist, but with just enough of an answer to reward your efforts without slamming you in the face with an explanation. Monument Valley is short, but not too short. Its length leaves you wanting — but not needing — more.
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