Monument Valley, the upcoming puzzler from London-based ustwo, has raised quite a lot of interest since first being teased a few months ago. It's uniquely MC Escher inspired interactive 3D puzzle style has piqued the interest of many. It seems to be on-track to be the next indie hit for iOS. I recently had a chance to sit down with Dan Gray, Producer, and Neil McFarland, Director of the game to discuss and play through the game. Let's find out if all of the early accolades are deserved.
Ustwo has a reputation of quirky, yet quality games with a very unique visual style. Their office in an old warehouse in the Shoreditch area of London is just what I would imagine from a company that makes games like Whale Trail. A large number of bright, interesting, inspirational, funny, and oddball bits and found objects all over the offices and common spaces fits that perceived personality. It's as though their offices were in the world's largest art student dorm room. A perfect environment to foster the unique styles and somewhat off-the-wall games. Their previous iOS hit, Whale Tail, is the perfect illustration of their unique style in action. It combines a visually interesting look and bright color pallet with fun game mechanics and music.
Monument Valley takes a slightly cleaner, reserved aesthetic over Whale Trail, though it maintains a very oddball game mechanic. In this game the main interaction is rotating parts of the screen, mechanical or otherwise, leading to illogical optical illusions that create new paths for the characters to travel. It's these unique puzzle elements that require that you put what your mind thinks of as spacial reality on hold. Swinging platforms and stairways connect in seemingly impossible ways by rotating the entire structure or small sections on screen. It seems illogical, but when it fits, it's genius.
The game is designed with flat colors and intentional lack of detail that lends perfectly to the logic defying geometric puzzles. The lack of color and detail is almost the exact opposite of what would be expected for a game that moves in this way and stresses perceived logic so greatly. Where detail is given in the game, it is intentional to draw the eye to an available action or clue to how to progress. Tremendous thought has been given to the many levels of puzzles in this game. Maddening levels of trial and error have lead to some of the most unique puzzle and maze elements I have experienced.
For some reason the game reminds me of what a sliding 15 tile puzzle would look like if MC Escher designed it during a month long bender on absinthe and peyote. It's absolutely visually compelling and draws you in, wanting more and more. Moreish as the English say. It's relaxing and stressful. Balancing that line perfectly.
Ustwo takes pride in making unique and interesting games and it shows in Monument Valley. We can expect to see it released at some point this spring or early summer. It will be a premium game, priced reasonably the developers tell us.