Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Monumental game.

I was very happy to see Monument Valley II pop up in the App store -- the sequel (or is it a prequel?) to the smash hit Monument Valley, Apple's Game of the Year in 2014. I loved the original puzzle game and couldn't wait to tackle this one. 

If you haven't heard of it, the original Monument Valley and this one have nothing much to do with the famous Western landscape, but rather ... well, it's kind of confusing. Sacred Geometry is mentioned. In both games your goal is to get from one part of a gorgeous, surreal board of weird buildings to the exit. As you see below, the characters are tiny in the landscape, and will walk wherever you indicate they should, if they can. It will be up to you to manipulate the environment, using controls that lift, turn, lower, or otherwise change the environment or just your view of it. That last part is key: Like an M.C. Escher print, if something looks like it connects, even if it shouldn't, you can walk across it. It's brilliantly done. 


There are some improvements in the new game, to my mind. The annoying and obstructive crows from the first game are not present this time. Also, in the new game you're moving two characters on some boards instead of just one, which adds a little complication. Like the original it was not terribly hard, but that was no problem to me, despite the $4.99 price; the game is so beautiful you'd want to play it more than once. You don't have to have the sound on, but the music is haunting and unobtrusive and the sound effects can be helpful.

There don't seem to be any recognizable male characters in either Monument Valley game; the princess and her mother and other assorted people all seem to be female. I'd be a hypocrite if I called that a flaw, because I loathe identity politics and quotas. However, to be fair, I do have to say there's one guy in each game who looks like a dude to me:

The fellow with the eye is Doortem; he is a kind of totem pole who doubles as a doorway. (The first game featured Totem, who was the same but without the door.) Why do I think these are male? It's not a Freudian thing. They are described as friends but they are heroic servants, helping the princess and her mother move around, always watching over them. In the first game Totem even seems to sacrifice himself. Heck, they even allow themselves to be walked on. What guy hasn't let the woman he loves walk over him?

The whole story seems to make sense in a kind of artistic way; it doesn't exactly have a plot, although it does have a progression. There is a sense of loss and longing in the first game that goes with a theme of redemption; in the second, there's a coming-of-age story seen mostly from the parent's side. If you like puzzle games, or games that are just creative and artistic, you ought to try these games. And that's about as high a recommendation as you'll get from me.

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