Monument Valley 2 is a monumental achievement [Review]

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Monument Valley 2 review
Are you ready for a return to Monument Valley?
Photo: Luke Dormehl/Cult of Mac

When I interviewed the creators of smash hit puzzle game Monument Valley back in 2014, producer Dan Gray told me, “Already we’re having people ask us when Monument Valley 2 comes out, which is pretty crazy.”

Well, ask and ye shall receive — albeit three long years later. Arriving as a surprise release on iOS this month, Monument Valley 2 brings more of the M.C. Escher-inspired puzzle action that fans have been craving since the original game arrived in the App Store.

How does it fare? Put it this way: If you loved the original, you should fire up Apple Pay right now and set aside a few hours for more of the same.

Monument Valley 2 review: Fantastically familiar

For anyone who never played Monument Valley, it works like this: You control a protagonist as she moves through an isometric landscape by tapping where you want her to go. To help her reach the end of each stage, however, you must manipulate an Escher-style piece of impossible architecture.

That means raising and lowering platforms, or spinning physics-defying stairways and crosswalks, even if — actually, especially if — this means breaking the laws of perspective.

Combine that with stunning visuals, a relaxing pace of play, and a soothing soundtrack, and you’ve got a title that stood out from the pack of loud, obvious Angry Birds-type games that dominated the App Store at the time.

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Sometimes you need to physically turn your iPad to solve puzzles in Monument Valley 2.
Image: ustwo

More of the (superb) same

Some sequels totally change up the formula from the original. Not Monument Valley 2. This feels more like an iPhone “s” launch: a subtle upgrade that tweaks a few minor elements of its predecessor, but doesn’t substantially alter it.

The biggest obvious difference is that you now have a daughter who follows behind you. Much of the time she’ll function as a Tails to your Sonic, dutifully trailing in your wake, so the game differs only in terms of aesthetics.

Sometimes you get split up, and both characters get the chance to act separately before joining forces again. The pair interact through small expressions, like hugging one another or holding hands. The gameplay hints at a bigger theme about growing up, but nothing ever gets spelled out.

The original Monument Valley was never the toughest brain-teaser on the market. It doesn’t make you feel rushed. Solving its puzzles is less a case of frantic action and more like a gamified version of a brain massage. Play it and you’ll feel relaxed, occasionally euphoric and challenged in the way that classical music “challenges” you.

A sound sequel to a stunningly original game

This sounds like a downer — but it really, really isn’t. The original ranks as my favorite mobile game of all time. The controls are perfect, the graphics are beautiful, and the experience is unlike just about anything else. The sequel offers more of the same.

Not everything about Monument Valley 2 is perfect, although nitpicking a game this charming feels a bit like kicking a puppy for not being cute enough. The price tag is one potential sticking point, albeit a minor one. The original game cost $3.99 for 10 levels. The sequel costs $4.99 for 14 levels.

With the original working out to 40 cents a level, you could look at the sequel’s price as good value — but in an age in which more and more people seem accustomed to getting things for free, it’s easy to imagine a few people balking.

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A game full of impossible architecture.
Image: ustwo

Monument Valley 2 is short but sweet

That’s especially true when you consider that what you’re getting won’t last you long. Sit down with Monument Valley 2 after work, and you’ll likely finish it by the time you go to bed — even allowing for an evening meal in there somewhere.

The game isn’t overly tough, and while it’s undoubtedly an immersive, addictive experience, it’s not addictive in the way that puzzle games with a high degree of replayability can be. Chances are that once you’ve completed Monument Valley 2, you won’t open it again for a good few months — unless you’re showing it off to someone new.

That doesn’t mean it won’t stick with you, though.

Personally, I don’t mind paying a premium for a high-quality, ad-free experience, but not everyone is going to feel the same way. If you gauge value as cents per gaming minute, Monument Valley 2 doesn’t pencil out as the best value proposition. Then again, if you’re the kind of person who works out your pleasure with a formula like “total unitary value of fun divided by initial financial outlay,” there’s a good chance you’re dead inside, and wouldn’t enjoy a thoughtful game like this anyway.

Better safe than sorry

The bigger issue is how safe this sequel plays it. Since the original came out, plenty of other indie games built on the foundations it laid. These days, cute puzzle games with a quirky edge and a pastel color palette seem like an iOS genre unto themselves. Monument Valley 2 plays like a set of new levels for the original, trendsetting game.

Since Monument Valley was virtually perfect, that’s a good thing. Just don’t expect Monument Valley 2 to deliver anything fundamentally new.

Buy it from: The App Store ($4.99)

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