Once in a while, there comes a mobile game that knocks your socks off — and not in a Flappy Bird sort of way. The glorious Smash Hit was one such breathtakingly beautiful game — and now, Monument Valley is here to show us why game design is most definitely art.
It Is Just So Beautiful
In Monument Valley, you are a silent princess navigating through a temple. The view is isometric — things look like they are 3D, but you can’t move the camera around.
Things looking like they are 3D is the heart of the game: Each level features multiple optical illusions which you must use to create a path the princess can traverse. You do this by rotating and sliding parts of the building, which often rotate or move other parts in turn. Each level feels like a carefully conceived puzzle box, with intricate mechanical innards.
Makes You Feel Smart
It takes about an hour to play through Monument Valley. As you travel through the impossible architectural wonders of the different levels, you will need to spot optical illusions, as well as create them yourself. The control scheme is so intuitive, it virtually disappears when you play: There are no buttons, you simply slide elements around on the screen.
As you slide parts of buildings around the screen, you build illusions. Constructing a path like this just makes you feel smart — no two ways about it. It feels like making something out of nothing.
The interface is intuitive also when it comes to moving the princess on the screen: Tap a point, and if there’s a path leading to it, the princess will simply go there. This sounds simple, but the game is able to resolve surprisingly complex three-dimensional paths. When you tap a point all the way across the screen and watch the princess climb a complex network of ladders to get there you’ll see it in action.
No Death, No Points, All Atmosphere
While navigating through the game, its arresting style is impossible to ignore. It even includes a built-in feature for taking screenshots:
You can’t die. You don’t get any points, either, and it doesn’t keep track of how long you take to traverse each level. You do get an achievement every time you complete a level.
The atmospheric soundtrack, combined with interludes in which you meet a cryptic character for bits of dialog (or rather, an ongoing monolog), add to the sense of quiet wonder that accompanies Monument Valley.
A Work Of Art That’s Also A Game
Monument Valley costs $4, and it’s worth it. It has no banner ads, no in-app purchases, and none of the myriad other annoyances that accompany most modern mobile games. One of its few drawbacks is that it doesn’t have much of a replay value, either: Once you work your way through a level, you are done with it. You can play it again, but its secret are no longer secret.