Editors' note: This review has been updated with new details from the latest version.
This puzzler won't test your hand-eye coordination, nor is it very long, but the relaxing experience of playing backed by excellent sound design and a mysterious storyline is still worth the price tag ($3.99, £2.49, AU$4.99).
Monument Valley mixes together concepts from the art of M.C. Escher, Japanese woodblock prints and temple architecture from around the globe. What results are visual moments in the game that are worthy of hanging on your wall (with an in-game camera for snapshots), but it still remains accessible enough that both kids and adults will enjoy it.
As a puzzle game there is a certain amount of trial and error in Monument Valley. That's especially true with this game because you'll encounter impossible geometry as you find a path to your goal. Often, you'll rotate a section to discover that a lower platform matches up perfectly with one much higher up. It's all about perspective, but in Monument Valley, changing your perspective changes physical reality.
You play as Ida, a silent princess trying to discover the mystery of Monument Valley by exploring temple-like structures to unlock their secrets. To move Ida, you simply touch where you want her to go.
Certain objects are movable as well, and you'll be able to tell you can move something by finding small circular handles. Sometimes you'll move a bridge to make it accessible, while other times you'll rotate the entire level to see what you can accomplish on the other side. Whenever you get stuck, it's often because you haven't tried everything or moved every available block.
What's interesting in this puzzle game is that it really isn't all that difficult, but it's the process that's so enjoyable. All told, Monument Valley has only 10 levels (with several puzzles in each) that can be completed in under two hours; many of the puzzles are pretty easy to solve once you've studied them for a few minutes.
Instead of the challenge, this game's enjoyment comes from the overall experience of the superb Escher-like level design and eerie soundtrack. As you study each of the beautifully designed levels, it's easy to get sucked into the game's strange world.
There isn't much story here either. But you'll find most of the narrative between levels when it shows the next level's name along with a vague description, and also when you meet up with a ghostly figure that tells you about the strange geometry of the temples.
You'll still have many questions at the end of the tale, but you will no doubt have enjoyed the journey.
For all that is great about Monument Valley, I still had a couple of issues. There is one level where you have to do things in a specific sequence (you'll know it when you come to it), but there aren't any indicators to point you in the right direction. I had to restart the level several times to get it right, so be warned that not all levels follow the same set of rules.
Another minor issue is you can only play the game in portrait mode. It makes sense on the iPhone, but for the iPad it seems like it would be a lot more comfortable to play in landscape mode.
My other issue with the first version of the game was that it was too short. Reading the description on the developer Web site at the time, it was meant to be that way, but the quick rise in popularity had made them say there would be new levels coming in the future.
Well, the future is now, but it will cost you. A new set of eight levels called Forgotten Shores can be purchased from within the game. The add-on will cost you $1.99 or £1.49 or AU$2.49, depending on your location. I like that there's an add-on pack and the levels I've seen are awesome. But while I understand that the developers' work costs money, it's like charging full price for a movie then showing three quarters of it, only to charge you again for the ending.
Monument Valley is an incredibly immersive puzzle game that looks and sounds great. The slow pace, levels that look like works of art, and the strange storyline tie the game together beautifully.
The game is a great experience regardless of a player's age, and would make a great game for a child and parent to share.
The only problem is, with something this good, you want it to last longer. The Forgotten Shores add-on is an improvement, but you'll have to pay for it. You may just buy it, though, because once you spend some time in this gaming world, you'll only want more.