For those not already in the know, Monument Valley is a surreal game available from the App Store, Google Play, and on the Kindle Fire. It’s cryptically described as ‘an illusory adventure of impossible architecture and forgiveness’. The player is in control of Ida, a tiny princess tasked with navigating her way through a mind-bending maze of twisting stairs and columns.
What’s unique about Monument Valley, though, is that the entire game is pretty much a feast for your senses. It’s a smörgåsbord of subtle colour combinations, deft design/animation, and brain-itchingly impossible dimensions, all of which adds up to one of the most meditative and relaxing gaming experiences around. Here’s five reasons why you should immerse yourself in Monument Valley without delay.
1. It’s stunningly beautiful
Each level of Ida’s strange little world is wonderfully designed and animated, making them an absolute treat just to look at, let alone navigate through. Take the above rainy seascape, for example, formed from angular shapes that shift and interlock to create a strikingly convincing abstract ocean. The longer you stare at each level, the more there is to see. Luckily the game seems to be totally aware that the player will want only to gawp at the screen for quite some time, and makes no attempt to hurry you along into playing.
2. You can’t die
Where’s the fun in that? Some of the thrill-seekers among you might be thinking. But not so the rest of us, the ones who dream of getting lost in a laid back game with absolutely no sense of impending doom. You can’t fall off anything, or trip into any unexpected trap doors. There aren’t even any time limits; no ticking clock in the corner of the screen slicing down the seconds until Ida’s number is up. The only vaguely threatening things in the whole game are the little crow people who sometimes show up, and the worst thing they do is caw at you when you get in their way.
3. It snaps the dimensions you think you know (like brittle twigs)
You’re going to think you’ve stumbled into an M. C. Escher painting, or an Inception style fight scene that culminates in Joseph Gordon-Levitt chucking you down a phantom staircase and then smugly intoning ‘Paradox!’ (except of course that nobody dies in the wonderful world of Monument Valley, as we’ve already discussed). You’ll discover that Ida can walk up walls and stand upside down on ceilings without breaking a sweat. The player can twist whole terrains around until a wall becomes a staircase, or two columns that were nowhere near each other suddenly connect to form a physically impossible bridge to victory. Plus, you feel kind of like a genius while you’re at it.
4. The sounds and music are amazing – and relaxing
Natural sounds such as the sea, rain, wind, or stone scraping on stone abound in Monument Valley, as does the subtle pitter patter of Ida’s tiny feet, which is strangely comforting. There is also music, although it’s the sort of music you might hear being played in a shop selling raw quartz crystals and incense burners, replete with tinkling bells and undefinable echoes (only not in an annoying way). As you continue through the game, you realise that you are in fact responsible for many of the sounds you’re hearing as you twist and turn the levels to find a way through the maze.
5. Literally anyone can play it
If you’ve got access to a working device and the couple of quid it costs to download, Monument Valley is yours for the taking. This is a game that can be played, and more importantly enjoyed, by absolutely anyone regardless of age, skill level, or gaming knowledge (FYI, these lovely screenshots are brought to you by my retired sixty-something mother).
The only slight annoyance is that you can’t stop half way through a level without being taken back to the beginning of said level next time you start to play. But, since each level doesn’t take that long to complete once you manage to bend your brain around the corners of it, this isn’t that much of an issue. So, take my advice; next time you’re stuck on the same train as the football fans, fire up your handheld, jam your headphones on and begin the mesmerising trek into Monument Valley.