Critical Play: Puzzles

Monument Valley was created by Ustwo games for phones. The target audience is non-gamers aged 8 and up. The puzzles are not difficult, and playing Monument Valley does not require much knowledge about gaming. 

The main type of fun is challenge: players solve puzzles to transport Ida from one location to another. I played through the first five levels, and I found the puzzles to be not challenging enough. I didn’t feel like I needed to put much thought into what I needed to manipulate to move Ida. There were very few options/affordances to choose from, so the next step was usually overly obvious. It often felt like there was only one thing I could manipulate, making it too easy to figure out what to do. As a result, the puzzles didn’t feel as satisfying as the puzzles in other games (like Portal and The Witness). It would be more challenging and fun for me if the answers to the puzzles were made less direct. I would also enjoy it a bit more if the puzzles had more of an “excluded middle” or made me “prepare the way.” I felt like the path from one place to another was often direct and had a simple cause-and-effect, but it could have been more challenging if it wasn’t so clear. The puzzles that were more tricky made me feel good to solve them. Perhaps I’m not in the target demographic because I’ve played a few other puzzle games before. Another type of fun the game intends is narrative. The protagonist is given a goal, and she chats with characters along the way. The game also offers sensation: the graphics and animations are extremely beautiful, taking the player to a magical world of optical illusions.

A cool mechanic is that roads/bridges can connect to a physically impossible destination through optical illusions. The isometric view and clever shading of the roads allow for this. This forces you to think outside the box to move Ida from one level to another. I enjoyed this mechanic and thought it was successful, although I wish the overall puzzles themselves could have been more difficult.

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