Critical Play: Puzzles

Game: I played Monument Valley by Ustwo Games (lead designer Ken Wong). It’s a mobile game, and I played it on a phone.

Target Audience: People who enjoy puzzle games, or just beautiful games — but, because of the slightly more expensive price for a short mobile game, the target audience is probably people who already really enjoy games rather than a very casual gamer.


Important Formal Elements of the game:

The mechanics of the puzzle influenced my experience of the game in two main ways: … First, the basic puzzle mechanic was using isometric building designs to create impossible geometries that then let the main character move through formerly unpassable spaces. This type of puzzle was novel, allowed for a lot of variation, and yet did not require learning new controls. So the player is able to focus on the puzzle itself instead of the controls for the puzzle, and also on the art and design and immerse landscapes that made such a puzzle possible in the first place. This leads me to my second point: the puzzles and the design went hand-in-hand. A lot of puzzle games have puzzles, and also have art/narrative, but there’s some degree of disconnect between the two. With Monument Valley, the Escher-like geometry is the puzzle, and solving the puzzle makes new sense out of the impossible spaces. Further, the surreal artwork and soundscape perfectly encapsulate that sense of wonder and making a path out of the seemingly impossible architecture.

Image result for results screen mobile game | Monument valley game, Monument valley, Isometric art

Type of fun game intended: Sensation and challenge, and to a lesser extent, narrative and discovery. The challenge aspect comes from its nature as a puzzle game that requires a correct solution and takes ingenuity and patience to get there. As the reading said, puzzles are “‘The longest distance between two points’ [where] if you’re going to ask players to take a long trip, be sure they enjoy the journey.” And this journey is gorgeous, enjoyable, wonder-filled — and every other word associated with the sensation kind of fun (can you tell I loved this game?). Along the way, the hints of narrative and tension between the protagonist and the crow people and the discovery of every level having its unique architectural look really add to the fun, too.

Moments of particular success and things you would change to make the game better: I honestly enjoyed every moment of this game and cannot think of a way to improve my experience. Some players may have found parts of the game slightly repetitive or slow, especially parts that were less puzzle-based and more just tapping to trigger the animated sequence (e.g. the stairs sequence when you just had to tap a space in front of the character), so I might shorten those sections. But honestly, I enjoyed the extra time to just immerse myself in the art and story.

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