A mobile game that debuted earlier this year (and was a finalist in Fast Company‘s 2014 Innovation By Design Awards), Monument Valley has always aspired to be a living M.C. Escher painting. What makes the game so innovative is that as weird and as trippy as the levels could be, the gameplay was very simple: you just tapped the screen to move your character, or interact with objects like gears or boxes. But as excellent and beautiful as the first game was, it somehow fell a little short, as if developer ustwo didn’t entirely have the confidence to pull off the mind-bending geometry of Escher at his best. With the release of Monument Valley‘s first in-app purchase, the game comes closer to Escher’s exploration of the infinite than ever before.
Called Forgotten Shores, Monument Valley’s first add-on pack offers nine new levels for the game. That in itself will please fans of the Apple Design Award winning game, as a common complaint of the first game was that it was too short. But with Forgotten Shores, ustwo has expanded the Monument Valley formula, adding a number of new core gameplay elements that you’ll have to twist your gray matter around to understand.
In the world of Monument Valley, a bridge that you couldn’t reach might be crossable if you twisted a gear that made an arch look as if it bridged the gap. In the Euclidean world, that solution wouldn’t work, but in Monument Valley, the only thing stopping you from going to point A to point B is whether it looks like you can get there from the player’s perspective. It’s all subjective.
It was a good trick, but ultimately, the original game never went that far with it. You were rarely at a loss for how to proceed. In Forgotten Shores, though, the player is tasked with solving much more devilish problems. Crossing a level is no longer just about perspective, but about figuring out how to cross impossible geometry. There are levels that require you to construct infinite, multi-tiered waterwheels to solve (again, just like Escher), and levels that require you to figure out how to traverse blivets, Penrose triangles, and other impossible objects. There are levels that transform into entirely different levels when you spin them, and ones with crumbling bridges and flowing lava that resemble the mines of Moria. Some of these levels feel like a scene from Labyrinth.
Throughout all of the Forgotten Shores levels, ustwo manages to maintain the original’s hard-to-define lyrical quality, which makes the game feel like a paean to geometries undiscovered. Yet like the original game, those looking for a serious challenge will be left disappointed by Forgotten Shores: in some ways, it is accessible, almost to a fault. There aren’t any levels a player can’t muddle through with trial-and-error. And even with the added levels, Monument Valley is an extraordinarily short game, which just leaves you wanting more. Let’s hope the next Monument Valley expansion adds a way to create and play new levels.
Monument Valley is available for sale on the App Store for $3.99. The Forgotten Shores add-on pack can be purchased in-game for an additional $1.99.