The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
Optical illusion-based puzzle games are quickly becoming a genre
unto themselves, with indie titles like Antichamber and The Bridge challenging
players to leave the basic conventions of reality at the start screen. Ustwo
Games' Monument Valley is the latest to encourage its own line of thinking, as
players help a mysterious princess navigate the visual tricks of her
environment. While Monument Valley is definitely the most polished of this new
breed of puzzle games, it is ultimately also the easiest.
Indie games often skate by on rudimentary visuals, but not Monument
Valley. Each level sprawls out before the player like a minimalist movie
poster, and features its own vibrant color palette and creative flourishes. Monument
Valley's surreal towers and castles are adorned in networks of interweaving
paths and stairways, which players manipulate with switches and levers that
transform the landscape in interesting ways. Towers rotate, staircases unfold,
and passageways shift to reveal a path forward. In every level, I paused to
admire how gorgeous Monument Valley is, demonstrating an indie game doesn't
need a 16-bit art style to be aesthetically appealing.
While Monument Valley's puzzles are visually clever, they don't
take much brain power to figure out. Your path through the beautiful landscapes
is often obvious, with only a few slides or rotations of environmental objects standing
in the way of your goal. That said, Ustwo does a good job of constantly
introducing new mechanics, so even though the puzzles are simple, they are
rarely repetitive. Elements like path-blocking crows and a totem that can be
slid around to reach new areas don't really make the puzzles more challenging,
but they change things up just enough to keep players engaged.
The biggest head-scratcher is the obtuse narrative. Monument
Valley seems like it's trying to tell a meaningful story, but the symbolism is
so vague it's hard to tell what the developer is trying to convey. Players control
a princess who appears to be returning geometric shapes to some ancient monuments;
beyond that the story is open to interpretation, and doesn't give the player
much to go on.
I often commend developers for not padding out their games
with filler content, but Monument Valley is one case where I was left wanting
more. The game only features ten levels, with the first few serving to introduce
the basic gameplay mechanics. Only the final levels hit a satisfying length and
complexity, and then the game is over. That shouldn't detract indie fans from
partaking in Monument Valley's wondrous journey, however, which has already
landed on my short list for mobile game of the year.
Email the author Jeff Marchiafava, or follow on Google+, Twitter, and Game Informer.