Critical Play: Puzzles

This week, I played Monument Valley. It is an iOS game developed by ustwo games. You go through levels of puzzles in which your goal is to manipulate the platforms of a monument so that your character can pass through. I think the audience for this is almost anyone with working hands — I think that young children would enjoy it just as much as older people. It’s a game that would be enjoyed by those who appreciate aesthetics and spatial awareness.

Formal Elements:

This is a single-player game. You maneuver your avatar through various levels of mazes. The objective is always the same: to manipulate the map until your character can pass through. You are able to move your avatar and move the physical structure. Different levels require different mechanics and thus different solutions, which keeps it interesting to play. There are not many significant physical resources that play a role in this game — it’s just about solving the puzzles. There is some conflict on the levels that involve crows, because they make it harder for you to pass through since you have to avoid them. While I didn’t complete the game, the mini-outcome of each puzzle is that you pass through and move onto the next one.

Types of Fun:

I found the most fun part of this game to be the satisfaction when you figured out a particular orientation switch that would allow you to win the level. I think challenge is the main type of fun here, in addition to a small element of fantasy from the aesthetic of the game.

Success and failures:

I think the design of the game is hugely successful – it’s stunning! I also think their approach to varying the puzzles over time is quite effective.

I didn’t totally understand the narrative of the game, which would have made it more fun. I think they could raise the stakes of certain puzzles by using more narrative storytelling.


I’d love to, as I said above, get a better sense of the story (why are we solving the puzzles?). It could also be cool to incorporate more conflict by making this a multiplayer game or including more opposition.

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