John Cowen

John Cowen

User Experience • Design • Creativity

Monument Valley


I don't play computer games very often. I like the idea of them, I'm just not very good.

One game that intrigued me recently is Monument Valley. When you start Googling it, you see it gets a lot of rave reviews. I first noticed Monument Valley when I saw Frank Underwood playing it in House of Cards, which piqued my interest and 6 months later I finally got around to downloading a copy.

Screenshots from Monument Valley

Monument Valley Screenshots

A lot of the attention on the game is the look of it the graphics are quite simple, but have a rather beautiful elegance to them. The premise of the game involves navigating around M.C. Escher-esque constructions and some fascinating geometrical designs.

So, yes, Monument Valley looks beautiful and draws you in through this. But it's more the feel of the game that really makes it successful.

Firstly, it's entirely intuitive. You're not given any goals for the game, but there are buttons and obvious markers, that you intuitively know to guide your character towards. You also can't die. There's no time limit, there's no monsters trying to creep up and kill you, there are no platforms to fall off. You can get stuck, but you know it is a matter of problem solving to get past it.

Monument Valley is a very cathartic game to play. You can immerse yourself in the beautiful visual design, and enjoy the mental challenge of solving the geometrical puzzles, but the pace is always steady. It's a very Zen game to play. The visuals, level of game play and soundtrack are perfectly matched to deliver a very well designed experience.

Criticism for the game is that it's too short or too easy. In part it's true. I completed Monument Valley in under 2 hours and would have liked it to be much longer. However - the level of difficulty for each level is carefully designed I believe. Too easy is no fun as you aren't challenged and don't get a sense of achievement, while too hard becomes frustrating and you lose the Zen quality to the game. So making the game longer, by making individual problems harder to solve would not be successful.

Obviously, just adding more levels would be fantastic. But keeping the quality levels up is hard. Making a game isn't free and I'm sure they've agreed on what is a realistic balance between designing exceptional gameplay and being able to be profitable at a given price point.

The criticism of Monument Valley is understandable (we all want more of a good thing) - but ultimately unfair as the designers have made the conscious decision to go with quality over quantity.

You made it to the bottom! Thanks for reading.

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