Critical Play: Monument Valley 2

For this week’s critical play, I played Monument Valley 2, a game released for iOS by USTWO Games. Similar to the original Monument Valley game, the game largely revolves around M.C. Escher-esque puzzles. However, one new addition to Monument Valley 2 is that the plot of the game revolves around a new character Ro, and her daughter, as they navigate through the game’s world.

The mechanics of the puzzles in the game enforce two core aesthetics in the game– challenge and sense pleasure (and to a lesser extent, narrative).

In most of the puzzles present in the game, the objective is to have the main character reach a “shrine” location and draw the sacred geometry (an example can be seen below).

In order to do so, players have to manipulate parts of the environment, as indicated by knobs and bumps on certain elements. However, manipulating these elements often involves thinking outside of the box and breaking the rules of conventional physics, adding to the aesthetic of challenge. For example, in one of the images below, rotating the bridges actually links the players from the top of the structure to the button on the lower level, something that doesn’t seem physically possible, but the game seamlessly incorporates these aspects into the puzzle itself.

In addition, though the puzzles serve to add challenge to the game, the specific mechanics of the puzzles ensure that users don’t get too frustrated when playing. Specifically, none of the puzzles have irreversible “unsolvable” states– if players ever get stuck, their last actions are usually reversible. In addition, all of the puzzles really only have one correct answer and can’t be brute forced, they must be solved. Finally, all of the puzzles are quite consistent in their mechanics– even when introducing new mechanics, like being able to grow or shrink a tree based on sunlight, much of the movement and puzzle solving strategies remain the same. As a result, the puzzles in Monument Valley 2 follow many of the 13 rules for puzzles as mentioned in class, leading to a challenging experience that still provides enjoyment for players.

The puzzles themselves are also beautiful– combined with the music and the sleek design, it’s likely that players return to the game for the visuals alone, even if they’ve played through the puzzles already (contributing to the aesthetic of sense pleasure) 

Finally, some of these puzzles are also present (though usually smaller) in cut scenes where Ro hears from her ancestors. This consistency throughout the came helps enforce a sense of worldbuilding and helps to connect the cutscenes and narrative (which could feel quite disconnected from the normal gameplay) to the rest of the game.  However, a large part of the worldbuilding and lore comes from the puzzles themselves. Players learn more about the world in Monument Valley based on the interactions they have with the world through the puzzles, such as the totem that Ro interacts with, or through the interactions they have with the puzzle architecture (like when the building in red collapsed, separating Ro and her child).



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