Monument Valley Changed Mobile Games Forever
9 years after its release, we remember a princess in an impossible castle.
Sometimes, it's all about perspective. Such is the case with Monument Valley, a unique puzzle game on mobile that is all about shifting the perspective of puzzles to move forward. Despite the popularity of mobile gaming, it still has a somewhat bad reputation for not being “real gaming,” but nine years ago, Monument Valley proved that with imagination and innovation, the mobile space is just as capable of meaningful gaming experiences.
Looking at Monument Valley’s colorful but trippy art immediately draws a comparison to the work of M.C. Escher. Structures filled with stairs and walkways that bend in on themselves and link together in seemingly impossible ways. In the center of all of Monument Valley’s mind-boggling levels sits a solitary figure, a princess. She is the game’s protagonist.
And yet, she is not the player character. Rather than controlling a protagonist, Monument Valley is about manipulating the landscape of the game in order to help the princess reach the end of each level. By pulling at walkways or turning entire structures around and upside-down, you make trippy paths that clear the way for the princess.
As a mobile game, Monument Valley’s puzzles feel intuitive and inviting thanks to the ability to play the entire game with a single finger. Pulling walkways and turning structures only takes the press of a finger on a specific stone of your desired target and swipe. Similarly, you can direct the princess where to go by simply tapping a point on the screen and she will make her way there.
It isn’t uncommon to spend several minutes staring at every level in Monument Valley. This is for two reasons. The first will be trying to figure out exactly the right series of movements that unlock the path forward. Monument Valley accomplishes what every great puzzle game does — it makes you struggle to find the answer but the second you do it makes you feel like a genius. Every time you lock a walkway into place and the princess traverses the impossible geometry to her destination it is impossible not to feel a sense of accomplishment.
The second reason you will sit staring at your screen is that every single level is just so stunning to look at. Each one is composed just as carefully as a painting. You could take a screenshot at any point during your playthrough of Monument Valley and the product could easily be framed and displayed on a wall. Much of this comes down to the beautiful color palettes of the levels. A level in Monument Valley is composed of two major pieces: the structures and the background.
The structure always stands out in stark contrast to the background. Be it white walkways that evoke marble and a black background that seems to imply an endless void, or a colorful coral-toned castle sitting amongst the lulling waves of a sapphire ocean. Each level runs through the color wheel with the two parts directly opposed in perfect accordance with color theory. The parts are entirely distinct but work together to form gorgeous surreal landscapes of impossible towers. But always amongst the shifting rainbow of scenery lies the stark white of the princess. The constant.
Monument Valley is a game of only 10 short chapters. Yet each level is designed with the care of a master puzzle maker as well as a master painter. All of which can be experienced with the touch of a finger on your phone. The game is a beautiful piece of design in its entirety and succeeds because of how it took advantage of the mobile landscape for its unique puzzle gameplay.