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A Monument(al) Review


Sorry, bad pun...


Monument valley 1&2 analysis:

So I've been casually playing Monument Valley 1 and 2 the past couple of months, on and off. Mostly on during breaks from work and whatnot to get my mind going. Here's an analysis I did of the games. It's not really a review with numerical value, but more looking into what makes this game tick. Let me know your opinions of the game in the comments! 


Art design: 

These games are mostly focused on the art of the level, and the developers know this by allowing the player to post pictures of the levels on social media (which is a clever way to have people talking about your game). Soft colors and simplistic design add to the uniqueness of the game, and the different shapes of the characters make them stand out against the curvy square background. The colors of the scenes/architecture shows the different importance in the game, like the neon colors of the trees, or the grey memory scenes. The way the blocks move adds to the satisfaction of the game, as they reform with other blocks as you rotate, smoothing things back over. The game deals a lot with perception, and it brings a lot of awe to the game with having everything be on the same vertical plane. The objects you have to move are colored slightly different sometimes, or are dotted a complimentary color which tells the player what to move without making it too obvious.


Game play:

The puzzles on the game are pretty easy and straight forward. For the most part, the only reason why a puzzle would take long is that there are multiple steps to get to the door. Some puzzles are tricky when the ground twists and you don't realize what axis your character will be on. Many pathways are pretty obvious once you move something. The touch controls are not complicated, but sometimes when you're moving things up or down, or twisting something, the game has a little trouble reading finger movements and whips the platform around, making it difficult to have it lock in to the place you wanted. 



Touch, either touching tiles for the person to move, or sliding/rotating platforms


Level Design:

The games, especially the second one, have a problem with introducing new gameplay and level ideas, but never referring back to them. This makes the game feel shorter than it already is because there's no progressional development of gameplay, only story development. It's kind of disappointing because I liked the idea of sliding blocks and reattaching it to a new axis. Or how the trees grew in the light. It may be ideas weren't developed because the developers wanted an easier game, or they didn't want too large of a game that needed more development. It's clear to see that a lot of time was put into making the levels clean and almost works of art in itself. The reason why the game is so satisfying is due to things locking right in line with each other. It's like the videos you see when a tennis ball is the perfect size to fit in a Pringles can, with the little bit of air passing around it.



There isn't too much story in the games, especially in the first one, but the way levels are introduced provide a unique preview on what the level might be and how the story is progressing. The first game features Ida playing along and discovering the ancient monuments of her ancestors. The second game is more story based, and feels almost like an origin story of Ida. We are never told the child's name, but we can assume that it's a young Ida, however the colors of their clothing are different, Ida white, the girl red. We could say the mother is Ida, but the game introduces her as Ro. It could be possible the girl is Ida's mother but it's unclear. The path the second game takes makes it feel more of a satisfying ending, like the levels had more of a purpose than the first where you were just trying to get to each door.


Audio sounds/ambience: 

Todd Baker in mv2 created very fluid sounds that corresponded with the gameplay in a fluid way. It's unique to hear that every movement you did had its own sound, either randomly generated from a pentatonic scale, or the sounds are triggered, like the sounds when you step under the arches and the music develops at the end. The game is all about satisfaction, so the sliding brick sounds when monuments move gives the player a feeling of weight, and a nice click when a block slides right into place. The development in music had a more dramatic effect in mv2, where if something really important was happening, or the story was taking a turn, the music would have more rhythmic structure and drums would be introduced, energizing the quiet, solemn feeling of the game. 



These games win on art and music, and they are clear arguments for games being works of art. I think the big reason why these games are so great is that it's very satisfying to do anything in the game. From moving around your characters, moving platforms, even to see the whole world develop around you, the audio and art of the game really sets it apart from other mobile games. Some of the unique mechanics I wish they developed further and ultimately I wish there were more levels that were fleshed out. Nonetheless, I thoroughly enjoyed playing the game and letting the synthwave music and ambient sounds wash over me as I slowly unlock the secrets in Monument Valley. 

- Stay gold out there

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About Professor Dillyballone of us since 10:09 AM on 02.16.2017

Hey everyone!

I'm a clarinetist and composer from the southern Maine area, currently working on getting a small indie studio together.

Here I'll be posting biweekly blogs about my journey within video games and some analysis of games I've been playing.

I lead a small Facebook group called Maine Game Development where we host events in the Portland, Maine area. Also working on starting another game club where we play games and talk about them monthly, kind of like a book club.

Stay tuned for various resources that I post within my blogs if you want to know more about game development.

Currently Playing:
West of Loathing

My personal website:


Worked with crazy-cool people on some crazy-cool games and technology here:

I did sounds and music for this game (yes, it's a VR chicken battling game):

Join us on the Maine Game Development Facebook group!

I did some sound design with these people:

How I made my banner and blog photo: