With its M. C. Escher inspired artwork, fiendishly clever puzzles, and easy charm, Monument Valley (2014) remains one of the greatest smartphone games of all time. Due to its success (30+ million downloads, a lot of critical acclaim, awards won etc.), there’s no real surprise a sequel was in the works. Released in June 2017, it’s taken us a year to catch up with it (hey, it was on offer for £1.99… and we got the first one for free – so there!), but here we are. Review time!
Monument Valley II
Developer ustwo Games was founded in 2013, as part of the ustwo digital product studio. For its indie game department, its humble London office wasn’t about to reflect the monumental success of its breakout game. Straight up, that gorgeous isometric visual style is what grabbed peoples’ attention – few games look quite as good as this, not even a top line PC or a PS4 Pro with all that grunt can match a clever artistic style.
Naturally, the comparisons to M. C. Escher were there from the off, but it’s inspiration rather than outright plagiarism. Besides, the remarkably clever optical illusions and impossible objects complement the artistic splendour. It’s not just the graphics, either, as the soundtrack is suitably inspired – it’s all rather poetic and graceful. Elegant, in fact.
As the player, you star as Ro. She has a daughter, so it’s your responsibility to guide the two through each stage. The minimalistic approach is unusual in a gaming world where a plethora of abilities is the norm, but it’s not uncommon in mobile games (just check out Alto’s Odyssey for a similar style). You simply tap at the screen and manipulate certain elements to move the characters along.
It’s more a meditative experience than a video game. With its calming but expressive soundtrack, and natural beauty, it washes over you and provides a chillaxed (as today’s youth say) effect. If any game was a haiku, this would be it – Monument Valley II talks to you through its divine appearance, will leave you swooning merrily, and it’s a clever reminder of the artistic value of video games.
Behind The Scenes
If you’ve ever wondered how video games are made, or an indie game in this instance, then ustwo kindly provided the above documentary over on its YouTube channel. The humble team (acknowledging they didn’t expect the first game to be such a success) moved into a bigger office for the sequel. It’s another example of how you can grab the public’s attention with a clever idea, so if you’ve got such an idea… you bloody well run with it!