I used to work in a place that had a famous M.C. Escher print hanging over the stall in one of the restrooms. Talk about a taking your mind off of your business. I’ve always been a fan of how Escher played with our linear minds that seem far too bound to the dimensions we live in. Now there’s an iOS game called Monument Valley that takes M.C. Escher as one of its influences. Created by ustwo, the 10 level game is filled with puzzles that momentarily defy logic but are easily solved once you let your mind think outside of the box. If you like blending a little art, a little physics, a little puzzle solving, and some mind benders into a game, this one is a winner.
Another influence of the developers is Japanese woodblocks. Each of the screens containing some fascinating complex architecture contains a simple beauty that harkens back to those influences. The simplicity is both soothing and deceptive. The sound design is both soothing and provides some of the same subtle cues that the visual design does to help you along the way.
The story of the game is relatively simple. You control the silent princess Ida as she wanders through a world where no path is obvious at first glance. As she wanders and finds new ways to navigate the structures, she meets up with crow-like people, totems and a few other strange characters.
Tap on a spot on a path and Ida moves there. Unless there is no obvious path for her to make it to that spot. That’s where the fun and some Escher comes in. Turn a gear, slide a wall, and lo and behold you can alter physics for a time to move Ida along a path that didn’t exist before and perhaps your mind didn’t see in the first place.
Once you get going and figure out the rudiments of the game, the 10 levels don’t take much time to complete. There’s no points or high scores, so this game falls into the category of those that allow you to relax a bit while also challenging your brain. Completing each level isn’t about reaching a conclusion. Its about the journey along the way as you make walls rise, fall and slide, stair cases appear, and watch Ida as she learns to walk in ways that defy the laws of gravity.
If you’re a puzzle solver, an Escher fan, or just looking for something fun to do for an afternoon, Monument Valley is quite a delight. It’s available for iOS for $3.99.