Sometimes you need to attack a problem from a fresh angle to come up with a solution, and sometimes you have to muster the courage to move in order to progress, but most problems can be solved by simply twisting and turning them. It's a cliché, but Monument Valley offers brilliant and concrete examples of how true it actually is.
The idea in Monument Valley is to twist and turn small world to allow Princess Ida to progress through them. What first appears like a dead end can turn out to be the way forward when seen from the right angle, and similarly two platforms that appear too far apart can create a bridge if seen from a certain point of view. The concept is similar to that of Fez, but instead of platforming challenges Ustwo have decided to focus solely on tricky geometry and clever puzzles. The result is amazing.
As you can tell from the images Monument Valley is simply stunning. We have to fight the urge to screendump every level, print them out and hang them on our walls. The colour choice and shapes offers up aesthetic perfection from start to finish and the mechanics are a perfect match with the design. The weird shapes transform into functional tools in front of your eyes.
Have you seen "Penrose stairs"? Or the paintings of M.C. Escher? A set of step painted in a way that allows you to walk it both up and down in eternity? The puzzles in Monument Valley follow the same principles, but certain components can be moved in order to open up new options. A temporary platform for Ida to stand on or a new path for instance.
In spite of its slow pace it feels as if the game is finished almost immediately after it starts. The price of £2.49 for ten puzzles that last for an hour, feels expensive, especially as the first few puzzles are simple to complete without any real effort. On the other hand, the concept is so particular that it could have become repetitive if it was watered down with more levels that repeated the mechanics.
Towards the end, as we investigate an extremely complex box inside and out, or when we follow a set of stairs into the ocean and onwards underground as the music appears to interpret my progress in real-time we really get how special this game is. There is no need for further convincing. That still leaves the last, most challenging and entertaining level of them all, and after its completion we cannot help but laugh and shake our heads. It's been one of our best gaming sessions of 2014. Perhaps the best one. But Monument Valley isn't perfect.
There is a complete lack of anything resembling a cohessive story. We're told in writing that Ida is on a journey to forgiveness and a bird appears every now and then to deliver a subtle psychological smackdown, but at the end of the day the dialogue feels tired and appears to have been translated hastily in Google Translate. There is simply no motivation to be found in the narrative, it's all about solving puzzles.
Furthermore, the length of the experience is something that needs to be taken into account. The first level takes about 15 seconds to complete while the second and third take about a minute and a half each to complete. It's not until the end that things start to really scale up and the game shows its full potential and challenges us. But by then it's almost over.
At the end of the day however it's obvious that this is something very special. If you own an iPad or an iPhone you need to do yourself a favour and download Monument Valley as soon as you can. If you've got an Android device you'll have to wait a little longer.