Monday, October 3, 2016

Ida in Escherland

Review: Monument Valley from USTWO Games Ltd

This charming video game hides a secret: you can't solve its puzzles unless you are willing to let go of your preconceptions.

In multiple levels and three different titles (Monument Valley, Forgotten Shores, and Ida's Dream), you guide the silent princess on her path through the various mazes and walkways. Mystical music and airy scenarios surround her quest for the right spot to return her stolen loot. Yes, the silent princess in her conical white hat is trying to return lost "sacred geometries" to their monuments.

Princess Ida is not the only one who treads these convoluted passages. A turbaned mystic waits to chide her for her theft, and warn her that other thieves will cross her road ahead. And flocks of bullying crows block her way; it will take a clever path-finder to outwit them and reach her goal.

To my delight, the eye rules in this interesting puzzle game. You can create a new way ahead simply by changing your perspective. Music and occasional sound effects are pleasant, but you don't miss any clues by playing the game on mute. And the princess is so obedient! I sent her walking back and forth for 10 minutes at a stretch, climbing ladders and stairs, as I tried to spot the next legitimate move for the Nocturne maze. She wasn't even breathing hard!

The folks at USTWO have done an amazing job of creating multiple mobile puzzles that are difficult, but not ultimately unsolvable. Each time I thought I had walked Ida and her buddies into a permanent dead-end, the way opened up at last for her to move onward. 

And the final wonderful thing about the three Monument Valley games? All of them were free—really truly free—for my Kindle Fire tablet.