Monument Valley is a critically acclaimed re-imagining of the puzzle platformer formats by indie studio Ustwo. It’s an engrossing visual experience, pitting players against quirks of perception while guiding protagonist princess Ida along labyrinthine pathways and surrealist landscapes.
Gameplay revolves around tactile interactions with an environment built upon ambiguities in perspective, transforming impossible geometry and optical illusions into something akin to an architectural Rubik’s Cube. It’s a melding of world building with mechanics that art designer Ken Wong has described as “the intersection between maths and art”; influenced diverse host of things “from bonsai plants and poster design, to Arabic calligraphy” and The Fall by Tarsem Singh.
Many reviewers have described Monument as a kind of digitalisation of the constructions of MC Escher, such as his hallmark Penrose Stairs and tessellations. Though those comparisons don’t account for its poetic fairytale feel. It fits the ‘art gaming’ trend in the tradition of the Stanley Parable and Papers Please, but focuses upon blending aesthetic experience with mechanical concepts rather than existentialist narrative ones. Although the architecture remains the center of the attention, it’d be wrong to overlook the mechanical oddity of it all along the lines of Portal.
Ustwo have come under criticism for its run time of about an hour and a half, and especially since charging for the expansion Forgotten Shores; albeit Ida’s Dream has recently been released for free. The expansions are complete standalone additions, offering “roughly the same amount of content as the original, for half the price”. The storm in a teacup has been overblown, but it has raises a valid debate about value for money in the golden age of day-one DLC and freemium.