Believe the hype: stop what you’re doing, go to the App Store, and download Monument Valley right now. I promise you’ll be serenely happy you did. Yes, I know I’m late to the party, but I did not expect to like it: my tastes run more to racing games and shoot-em-ups. Puzzles? Please, I have enough puzzles in my work and personal life. But Monument Valley grabbed my attention in about 30 seconds after (finally) seeing it, and kept me mesmerized and now jonesing for more levels (please!).
This is a video game like no other. It seduces you into an Escher-esque, Alice in Wonderland world which challenges your analytical skills and your assumptions about physics, while offering you a peaceful, zen-like, museum-beauty setting. It leaves you both so very satisfied with yourself when you figure out keys to each level, and yearning for the next one. Once I finished the ten levels ($2.99) I felt a hungry sadness, and immediately bought the expansion pack ($2.99). I have now finished those eight additional levels and am sending the developers (Ustwo) love notes, begging them to deliver the next round. It’s almost like a peaceful yet addictive drug.
The object of the game is to guide Princess Ida through a world of architectural puzzles that defy normal dimensional logic, in a quest to regain her crown. The controls are simple: you tap to guide Ida down walkways, gangplanks, up ladders, and through doorways that take you to new parts of the maze. You can manipulate each building/maze by turning rotary handles, sliding blocks into place, or turning the entire building to get a new view. There are squawking crows that block Ida’s progress, friendly moving yellow Lego-like towers who are your friends and helpers, hidden hints that at times require you to zoom to get them, and barber-pole columns that you must help Ida ride correctly. You must tap into your non-linear and intuitive side to make it through the geometric waterfalls and castle mazes. When your mental focus becomes too narrow, it helps to put the game down for an hour or a day, and come back with a fresh set of eyes. In most games, the off-button for the music is the first thing I find, but in Monument Valley the soundtrack just adds to the quiet and contemplative nature of the experience: if you’ve heard Brian Eno’s Ambient music you know what I mean.
The joy of this game, unlike most others, is that the pace is your own, like walking through a museum. There are no points as you are only playing against your own mental ability. The only downside from my perspective is that there are no further versions available. Monument Valley is #2.99 in the app store.