Monument Valley review: moonrise kingdom

Monument Valley is smart and soothing.

Game Info
Platform iOS, Android
Publisher N/A
Developer Ustwo
Release Date Apr 3, 2014

Monument Valley put me into a trance. The kind of trance where you look up at a clock and notice that two hours have gone by in an instant.

Designed to keep the player moving forward, and frustration-free in its execution, it's a rare puzzle game that I finished in one sitting and wondered what had happened to my afternoon. Monument Valley is inviting — with excellent puzzle design and a warm atmosphere that soothes as much as it intrigues.

Monument Valley put me in the tiny shoes of Ida, a princess in a world of bizarre geometry and fanciful — but consistent — logic. The game is light on exposition but heavy on atmosphere. There's a past to this world and a sense of importance to Ida's wanderings.

The premise serves to hand the player a series of 3D spatial puzzles, all revolving around traversal. You tap the screen where you'd like Ida to go, and if the plane is available to you, she moves there. At first, the puzzles are simple — I had to guide Ida to a switch, or rotate the view so that two planes touched, creating a path for the character. This evolves into complex systems of switches, gears and pulleys, and timing takes a larger role. Things ramp up at a gentle pace, which made me feel like I always had a handle on the action.

There's a sense of importance to Ida's wanderings

This is thanks to the game's clear, intelligent design. Monument Valley always communicated what it wanted from me, without the need to handhold or beat me over the head with a solution. It taught me what I needed to know, then guided me towards making the right associations and logical leaps.

In one screen, I needed to rotate the path so that Ida could walk upside down and reach a switch. Later, I had to tackle a structure that had me walking upside down, right side up, and sideways along the walls, in a pastel version of an M.C. Escher painting. The architecture intimidated me, but every step to the solution was subtly telegraphed. An obvious first switch led to a path toward a sideways staircase and another switch, and so on until I found my way to the top of the structure in a very natural progression.

Solving puzzles in Monument Valley always felt intuitive in this way. This isn't to say there's no challenge to the game — there's nothing obvious about later puzzles, which are as complex as they are beautiful to look at. But I never felt strained or frustrated — my experimentation always flowed towards an inevitable solution. Playing it felt effortless, and that sensation was refreshing.

Everything about Monument Valley is soothing, almost hypnotic. It's a very pretty game, layered with warm colors and simple shapes. And the sound design is entrancing. Every interaction you have with the screen is enhanced with a musical sound effect — rotating blocks sound like a wind-up music box, gears like the strings of an acoustic guitar — all adding to the relaxed atmosphere. It's a pleasure to be in this world, and I found myself loading the game just to listen to its soundscape long after I had completed it.

Wrap Up:

Monument Valley is smart and soothing

Monument Valley doesn't overstay its welcome — with ten sections, each with a few screens, it took me about three hours to complete. But those hours were special. Monument Valley features brilliant design, with puzzles that somehow always made perfect sense, even though I was playing as a wall-walking princess in a pastel-hued world. The experience was short and sweet, but it stayed with me like a dream I didn't want to forget.

Monument Valley was reviewed using final retail code provided by UsTwo. You can read more about Polygon's ethics policy here.

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