20
May
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Monument Valley came to Android a week ago after attracting roughly a million downloads on iOS in the one month since its release. That's no small number, but it doesn't take much time with the game to understand why (a good thing, considering just how little time you're going to spend playing it). Monument Valley has been put together pixel by pixel, with the game offering no more nor less than it needs to provide an absolutely captivating experience.

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The Gameplay

Monument Valley is a series of M.C. Escher paintings come to life. Each of the puzzle adventure game's ten stages plop players down on a piece of impossible looking architecture and tasks them with manipulating stairs and walkways so that the silent Princess Ida can navigate to the goal. The concept will seem somewhat familiar to people who have played Fez, and it may even provide a sense of déjà vu for anyone who experienced Echochrome on the PlayStation Portable. Yet like most works of art, success has little to do with being the first to do something and everything to do with getting it right. Monument Valley, in short, nails it.

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The gameplay here is simple. To control Princess Ida, players simply tap on the spot she should walk to. If a path is available, she will start moving. If one isn't, then she's staying put. Typically getting from point A to point B requires rotating or raising a part of the environment, but there are sometimes other obstacles that get in the way. The levels are designed to play tricks on you, and these optical illusions don't have to make physical sense to serve as successful paths for Ida to traverse.

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Here's the biggest issue with the Monument Valley - it will take me more time to write the remainder of this review than it did to play through the entirety of game. Heck, depending on how long you allow this tab to loiter in your browser, it may take you longer to finish reading this than to download and complete it yourself. Monument Valley is short, and it shouldn't take much more than an hour or two to complete.

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The thing is, I don't care. Every minute of the experience is planned out, highly-polished, and refreshingly engaging. There's no fluff here, as the game contains several gameplay mechanics that appear once and only once, disappearing before they can grow tedious. Whenever I thought I was coming upon a new element that would change all the level designs going forward, I realized that I would never see some of them again. The game's short length means things just don't have time to grow stale.

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Monument Valley signs into Google+ and supports cloud saves. I'm happy to report, after beating the game on my Nexus 5 and later picking it back up on my Nexus 7, that the feature works just fine. Unfortunately, there was nothing to do. After the game's over, it's over. There's the built-in option to take screenshots and share them with a social network, but that does little to expand on the title's longevity (or rather, its lack thereof).

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The Other Stuff

Monument Valley's pixels aren't particularly exhilarating, but they succeed in conveying everything the atmosphere requires of them. Even more importantly, they do not hinder the gameplay in any way. When a puzzle is proving to be particularly challenging, it's not because of poor art or a bad choice of perspective. When pieces rotate, they go or connect where you would expect them to. The pathways are small, but they're easy enough to navigate, and the levels are designed in such a way that players will only occasionally intend to send Ida somewhere and accidentally send her somewhere else, despite how crazy the environments get.

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There isn't much music to be found in Monument Valley, nor are there voice overs, but I would still consider this a game best played with good speakers or headphones. The developers have paid so much attention to crafting the game that each note is deliberately timed. With the sound off, you may get to see Ida's isolation, but you won't feel it.

Though it may not seem like it, there's a plot moving Monument Valley forward. The game doesn't have any voice overs (hey, leave those earbuds in, did you not read the last paragraph?), but there's still occasional dialogue. It reads more like a riddle than a script, and there are maybe two dozen sentences in the entire game, but when the story comes to an end, there's little confusion. I felt moved by the game's ending, if only slightly.

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Should You Play It?

Monument Valley costs $3.99, and while you might get a couple of hours of playtime out of it, don't count on it. In terms of longevity, this just isn't a game that's going to justify the cost. But really, four bucks isn't all that much money, especially considering how much a movie ticket would cost to provide entertainment for a similar length of time. This shouldn't be a question of how long the game is and more a question of how good.

That second question is a no-brainer, as I can easily recommend Monument Valley to any mobile gamer, whether they be casual newcomers or jaded console expats. Furthermore, a game of this type simply would not be the same were it sustained by ads. Developer ustwo has clearly put a good deal of thought, effort, and talent into creating Monument Valley, and that deserves to be rewarded.

Bertel King, Jr.
Born and raised in the rural South, Bertel knows what it's like to live without 4G LTE - or 3G, for that matter. The only things he likes sweeter than his tea are his gadgets, and while few objects burn more than a metal phone on a summer day, he prefers them that way anyway.

  • Thomas Garrett

    Hahaha, that URL.

    • http://bertelking.com/ Bertel King, Jr.

      Achievement unlocked. You have discovered the first draft title of my review.

      • Thomas Garrett

        Achievement unlocked. You've made my comment confusing to future readers who something something something.

  • jeux999

    This is a long-winded way to defend a half hour of play in 10 levels, costing 4X what any other game would give you. Just don't.

    • Himmat Singh

      Long story short, this is an experiential/atmospheric game. Well worth the money if you like such games, and probably a waste of money if you don't appreciate such games.

      • jeux999

        actually, it's supposed to be a puzzle game, yet they solve themselves & take joy away from the gameplay. considering the nature of the overall app market, it's overpriced.

    • Rickrau5

      Lol wtf.slap yourself please

    • thunderbird32

      Still better bang-for-the-buck than the new Metal Gear Solid game. Monument Valley really is a pretty cool little game too.

    • supremekizzle

      ...

  • g

    People spend $60 on 6 hour games, nothing wrong with $4 dollars for a 1 hour game.

    • http://www.thepixelpuse.com/ Aj Meadows

      I feel the same way. It's all about quality for me. I once spent $20 on a PS3 game called Journey. It was only 2 hours long. But the price was totally worth it. 4 bucks for a really great 1 hour game is totally worth it for me. Also I've played Monument Valley and if you ever have 4 bucks burning a whole in your digital pocket, I highly recommend giving this a go.

      • primalxconvoy

        But Journey had extra secrets, multiplayer and other content for replay value. What's this got?

        • Elliot Kotis

          A 5th of the price...that's what.

    • supremekizzle

      Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeros. $30 for a 30 minute game.

    • Da Fuq

      Well, I never!

  • spacekobra

    Wait, endochrome? I thought it was called echochrome? I don't know what to believe anymore. :(

    Anyways, got to beta test this game. Oh so worth it. Though I only have 9/10 achievements.

    • http://bertelking.com/ Bertel King, Jr.

      Woops. You thought correctly.

    • KERR

      Hope it's like CRUSH for PSP.

  • jdomann

    Personally, I feel $4 was totally worth it. It was so entertaining, I could not put it down once I started. And it looks amazing, as well as the great soundtrack to go with it. Spending more might have been a stretch though.

  • M.L.

    IMHO shortness is far too exaggerated in the article. Also, it's not mentioned that a level consists of multiple puzzles, not only one.

  • Badouken

    Bought the game... Beat it in an hour... Totally worth the $4, will probably play it again when I'm bored! Also read somrwhere the developer WAS gonna update with more levels but it might be awhile.

  • Michael

    I have really enjoyed the game. I spread it out so I didn't beat it all in one day. I'm hoping the developer will add more levels later.

  • Joe Burkett

    I have read on the devs twitter that there is more content on its way that were included on the ios releases...as always android has to play catch up.

  • http://rayshq.com/ Ray

    $4 is nothing for a game like this. Quality... that is what it comes down to for me. If the game (or app for that matter) is well made and you can see a lot of thought and attention to detail has gone into it, then I'll happily part with my money.

    In the case of Monument Valley - worth every cent IMO. The developer(s) have clearly done a brilliant job.

    You'll pay $4 for a (shit?) coffee in some places and it lasts all of 10 minutes.

    • qf

      Coffee is $4 in America? F**k.

      • http://rayshq.com/ Ray

        I'm not from America, I'm from Australia. But yes, you could easily pay upwards of $4 for a coffee here.

        • Elliot Kotis

          4 bucks would be cheap here though ;)

  • Hopjesvla

    You would get a lot more play out of this game if it wasn't so easy. When playing it, I was constantly amazed at the production values, and there are some clever bits in it. But you basically walk through the game in a linear fashion, without having to think all that much. It's certainly worth the money, but it could have been even better.

  • Frank DeAwoken

    Used Amazon coins to pick this up. I feel they were specifically designed for this type a situation: A game/app that is both awesome yet not worth the cost. Amazon coins offered me an alternative to piracy.

  • mikewatson021

    I have really enjoyed the game. I spread it out so I didn't beat it all
    in one day. I'm hoping the developer will add more levels later.
    http://bit.ly/1i0LgHG

  • primalxconvoy

    Sorry, but to me, it's not worth the price. If there was the promise of free/paid dlc, or even other features included (like live wallpapers based upon the levels), etc, then I'd be interested.

    As is, this is perfect ammunition for freemium advocates and iap apologists to their against those of its flying the flag for premium content.

    • Nicholas Polydor

      Perhaps this ought to be one of those games where you initiate a sale price alert?

  • Elric

    Hmmm... No support for ART (which is likely to become default next Android release). Really??

  • Dairox

    I love the game, and also I made a review about it (in spanish). The thing is, when you play it for second or third time, you will notice more awesome details that in the first time. Also, the thing with the "pixels" in the game is that it isn't pixels, they are 3D models, and some of them (like the sea) with a style called "low poly".

    P.S. Play it with headphones, you MUST do it

  • Maxxim

    > like most works of art, success has little to do with being the first to do something and everything to do with getting it right
    ...plus a mammoth, dinosauric dose of pure dumb luck.

  • Robin Chiu

    I'll wait for a sale. I probably won't pay $4 for a 10 mins movie, that has poor re-watch value.

  • Sophia Bennit

    Awesome game must play on android Android Games