Sunday, February 21, 2016

Mind-Bending 3D Geometric Puzzles + Minimalist Fairy Tale = Monument Valley Video Game




Even though I'm a tech-loving geek, I've been reluctant to accept cell phones and tablets as mediums with which to regularly play video games. I've used my cell phone in the past to play simple games to pass the time, but I couldn't imagine this kind of gaming to equal or surpass PCs and game consoles. Yet upon recent consideration, I've come to realize that what makes this form of gaming worthwhile is the kind of game that one chooses to play on a cell phone or a tablet. The kind of game that I'm talking about in this post is Monument Valley by Ustwo.

Monument Valley is a touchscreen-based puzzle game that depicts the silent Princess Ida's exploration of a lost civilization's "sacred geometry" to discover its secrets. Players use the touchscreen to move Ida through each level and manipulate the many knobs and levers that are hidden within the isometric puzzles. Currently, the game consists of ten levels with an extra level called "Ida's Dream" and an expansion pack of puzzles called "Forgotten Shores".

I've played many games with dense, detailed environments and elaborate usage of sound, but Monument Valley is a perfect example of how simple and smart arrangements--and rearrangements--of colors, lines and forms can create the most unforgettable gaming experiences. Even though it's a game, I felt many times like I was watching a whimsical and elegantly animated children's story, something that perhaps Studio Ghibli would make.


Three of the many amazing puzzles in Monument Valley.


In some ways, Monument Valley is an exercise in contradictions. On the one hand, the layout of each level are simple and uncluttered, with bold colors and clear lines; on the other are the puzzles themselves, which stunningly bend the rules of shapes and perspective in ways that would make M.C. Escher proud.

Some might be disappointed over how simple it is to figure out most of the puzzles once the player understands the game's logic. Nevertheless, even though I finished the game and its expansion pack within a few hours, it kept me engrossed and amazed in ways that few games do. That experience alone is enough for me to recommended Monument Valley to gamers of all stripes.



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