Critical Play: Puzzles (We Playin’ Monument Valley!)

Monument Valley commercial graphic
Hello reader! I hope you’re ready for an AMAZING critical play review of, in my opinion, one of the best puzzle games ever: Monument Valley. Let’s get started.
Monument Valley is a hugely popular mobile indie puzzle game that was developed by Utswo Games in the Unity game engine for ages 8 and up :). Essentially, the premise of the game is to help the princess Ida navigate/solve mazes of optical illusions and funky obstacles through rotating and shifting the world around her. The game’s graphics are simply beautiful, and the coolest part is that the gorgeous minimalist game scene, its object, and the princess indeed are a part of the puzzle itself. With the primary game mechanics being manipulating the world space via rotation, interacting, and zooming, the world quite literally acts as a maze to be explored and solved by the player. Like other maze/puzzle games, Monument Valley seemingly has no instruction or onboarding rather the player is initially flung into an easy maze which they independently need to figure out how to escape. This is an expected choice considering the game’s architecture, because the game itself is the puzzle, mastering the mechanic of manipulating the world is effectively the same as mastering the manner in which the puzzles are solved. If the game gave away how to solve each level, it simply would not be as fun or challenging. The game does, however, provide some hints of suggested movements/gestures and direction offered by hints in the titles of each level as it does get difficult at times. Personally, I felt like the optical illusions, distorted sense of depth perceptions/space, lack of gravity, and the minimal UI contributed to making the game all the more confusing to navigate (in a good way*). I feel like the game forces exploration in its players by giving minimal help and just being visually trippy.
Screen capture of MV’s beautiful artistic landscape!
Because of this, as the player, I indeed felt isolated and alone in an abandoned and empty world just like the sole princess Ida. This sense of empathy for the MC stirred the desire to complete the game’s puzzles to achieve the end goal of no longer being lost. Also, the game had a very interesting narrative which I think made it much more fun to play than if it was just a puzzle game. The game mechanics contributed to providing three main types of fun in its users: discovery, exploration, and challenge! The player needed to discover the right paths to turn to, explore new levels, and struggle with finding a clear path to success with minimal help.  The player can really only move the unpredictable world around and solve its puzzle though trial and error, learning what rules govern the space along the way. As they grow more and more used to the game and its puzzles, the player will begin to achieve feelings of mastery and understanding.
I really loved playing Monument Valley! I think I totaled around like five hours of screen time (sorry, CS107, you’re gonna have to wait) as it offered such an amazingly fun and beautiful escape from reality. The solutions were certainly difficult at many points, but I feel like the harder the puzzle, the more satisfied I become at the finish.  I liked the simplicity of the mechanics; the only thing I would change is sometimes you needed t0 hold rather than click which messed me up on multiple levels as I was interacting with the right object but because there was no trigger event I thought I was on the wrong track. Aside from that, this game is awesome and I recommend!

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