It is hard to stand out. With the proliferation of the web and mobile experiences today, it seems as if anyone can create an app. Even though thousands of apps emerge on a daily basis and with a market hungry and ripe for competition, there is however, always one that stands out because its concept, the team behind it, design and development, truly stand out far beyond the rest of the mass app market. In order to stand out and be Yatzerized, your product must have a soul, a purpose and undeniable beauty. The team at USTWO have managed to create one such gem in Monument Valley, a surreal digital exploration through the eyes of Ida, a silent Princess, in a world of impeccable architecture, geometry and landscape twists where the premise is to guide Ida through mysterious architectural landscapes leading Ida through monuments, hidden thresholds and turning stairs, all the while making sure to avoid the enigmatic Crow People.
This simple storyline clearly takes its inspiration from the art of M.C. Escher, Japanese prints and minimalist 3D design. As a collaborative assortment of experiences produced by a team of 3d-modeling artists, architects, graphic designers and developers, this is an exquisite product where the user interacts with it from the palm of their hand. Atmospheric using new game mechanics, Monument Valley allows players to intuitively discover their control, potential and rules within the world. Although the landscapes exert a sense of difficulty, you never feel the frustration or anguish of the unknown. In a puzzling way, you find yourself immersed in difficulty without the negative emotions of taking the next step. The crafted environments, with their color, sound, shape and depth, provide a nice balance to keep you immersed in them and not want to put the game down.
Each level contains a new palette and shapes; each one is very much like an art canvas. The impeccable taste seen in each level is so magnificent that the team at USTWO decided to add a camera to capture a static shot thus enticing you to share, make wallpaper or indeed print the landscapes. Where the planar geometries are subtle in isolation but complex as a system, the isometric views provide a rich experience of depth and movement. Verticality and illusions of connection between the paths are surprising every time you find them.
The sound built into the experience is nothing but a catalyst to the success of the game as it serves to set the mood and articulates the characters. Although the game could be played without sound, it would make for a lesser experience overall. Case in point, the humor and pleasure in the sound of the enigmatic characters that make up the Crow people as they approach Ida.
Monument Valley has a great balance between not telling you what to do and provides a great user experience for users as they discover how to use it. This friction between knowing what to do, or finding out what to do, really keeps your brain focused within the landscapes. There is a sense of accomplishment at each level passed and a degree of excitement in wondering about exactly what new challenge and mystery is in store in the next level. Users are connected with Ida as they join her on her journey. Ultimately, this is one of those games where you feel that time is not wasted because you are actually getting something out of it.
As Neil McFarland, director of games at ustwogames sums up the game itself: , ''We’ve focused our attention on the design of game alongside a lot of user testing, and we really hope Monument Valley is what people are looking for right now - a premium game of the highest artistic quality offering players a satisfying journey from start to end.''
All in all, Monument Valley contains a unique crafted experience for each level that is soothing, elegant, fantastical and thought provoking where the hand-crafted puzzle levels are at one with the graphic design and architecture. Moving, interacting and leading Ida through the games’ landscapes is definitely an immersive experience worth consuming.
Monument Valley, the newest adventure from USTWOgames, creators of Whale Trail and Blip Blup, is available for $3.99/£2.49 from the App Store on iPhone, iPad or iPod touch or at; (iPad 2 / iPhone 4 minimum requirement). An Android version is set to follow soon (price TBC).