App Reviewed on: iPhone SE
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The first Monument Valley looked like a perfectly charming and colorful puzzle game. I say “looked like” because even its appearance on House of Cards was not enough to get me to check it out. With the release of Monument Valley 2, I felt like I needed to try and understand what these games are. For all intents and purposes, they're exactly what they appear to be from the outside. Monument Valley 2 is a beautiful puzzle game that plays with perspective. More than that, it's an experience that's perfectly suited for mobile, but it's also not one that will stick with you for very long.
Monument Valley 2 is a game that's all about perspective. You play as a woman and her daughter as they progress through a series of strange architectural wonders. There are parts of this architecture that you can twist or slide around, and in doing so you can make seemingly impossible paths open up. From your viewpoint, any two paths that visually align (even if they appear to be at different depths in space), can become a way forward for your characters. It's a neat trick that Monument Valley 2 designs almost all of its puzzles around.
Across these puzzles, Monument Valley 2 also tells a story that shifts between the viewpoint of the mother and the daughter. It's a very minimal story that leaves room for a bit of interpretation, but seems mostly concerned with the struggles of a parent as their child grows up and becomes more independent.
Playing Monument Valley 2 is as simple as can be. Players simply tap the screen to get their character to move to a particular point and tap and drag on environmental pieces to move them around. None of this is told explicitly to the player, but Monument Valley 2's visual design does an incredibly good job of communicating to players what exactly needs to be done on any given level.
As far as the quality of the puzzles are concerned, most of them are pretty simple, but all of them are delightfully novel. The puzzle sections where you play with both characters at once feel particularly well made and are where the game shines the most. Unfortunately though, all of this ends just as it feels like you're getting started. The ease of the puzzles makes it so you can breeze through Monument Valley 2 in just a sitting or two.
There's no doubt that Monument Valley 2 is an impeccably well-made game, but beyond that, it's hard to see it as particularly special. Its puzzle mechanics have come in a variety of forms both before and after the first game, and–while a lot of the puzzles here are neat–some of their ideas come and go a little too quickly.
Perhaps this is the issue with trying to make a game perfectly suited for a mobile platform. There's a balance that needs to be maintained between short bursts of play while waiting for the bus and extended sessions when players want to lose themselves in the experience. In doing this though, both ends of the experience get compromised. The on-the-go experience may prevent you from feeling the impact of Monument Valley 2's narrative moments, and marathoning the game reveals a disappointing lack of depth.
The bottom line
After playing Monument Valley 2, I have an idea of why the first game got propped up to be mobile gaming's standard-bearer. At the time of its release, it was a novel experience wrapped in a breathtakingly gorgeous package. It was easy to look at, easy to play, and therefore easy to recommend to anyone. Much like an actual monument, Monument Valley was (and still is) an important landmark in mobile gaming. Monument Valley 2 seems to iterate on the things that made Monument Valley so beloved, but in doing so it feels like a duplication of effort–like a monument to a monument. It's still pretty and easy to recommend, but feels far less special.