Critical Play: Puzzles

For this critical play, I decided to play Monument Valley, a single-player puzzle game by ustwo, on the iPad. This game seems to be popular with a variety of people, as there is a general fantasy theme to it. Although there is no official target audience, I would say this game appeals to people who are interested in puzzles and illusions, which can range from young children to adults. The objective of this game is to solve all 10 levels and help Ida, a silent princess, find her way in this illusional world.

Each level starts with a vaguely short run-through of what Ida is going through and carries over her discoveries from previous levels. At each level, the player can guide Ida by tapping on where they want her to go, which is indicated by a white dot. There are some places where Ida cannot walk (like curves) and the mechanics prevent the player from tapping there (no white dot appears). As the level progresses, more locations and monuments are revealed—these are triggered based on buttons that the players navigate to get Ida to press. The boundaries are very obvious, as Ida stops at the spots where she can no longer move toward. While there are no straight-up hints, some of the harder levels has a totem-pole friend that accompanies Ida in some hard-to-reach places. Like most puzzle games, you can’t die—you either reach the end of the chapter or you get stuck.

This game intends to be a challenge and sensation kind of fun. Monument Valley is centered around illusions and figuring out how to adjust/view the puzzle to solve it. The mechanics are very interesting and become much harder throughout the levels. It is also very sensational to play because not only are the graphics so well-done, the game also has accompanying music for each level to establish the mood. I also enjoy how when you move Ida, different sound effects and music play, giving me goosebumps. Finishing each level felt like such a huge success because there are so many parts to it—every time Ida reached the top of the monument, I felt like that was huge success for me. Monument Valley doesn’t really give players the option to fail (besides giving up) so this made me want to continue trying and figuring it out.

While I would say that Monument Valley is a nearly flawless game, the one aspect I would try to improve upon would be the narrative part. It seems like there is a story or background that explains why Ida is going through all these monuments but as I was playing the game, it became even more unclear to me—I just really paid attention to the puzzle play. I do believe that this game trys to be very minimalistic, I believe that this aspect should have more details to make me even more engaged. Besides that, I think that Monument Valley is by far the best game I have played on iOS and would recommend it to anyone.

About the author

CS 247G (Spring 2022) + CS 377G (Winter 2023)

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