‘Monument Valley 2’: Our First Take

'Monument Valley 2' has all the fun of the original, and more soul

Monument Valley 2 beautifully expands upon the beloved first game with a greater focus on character.
Monument Valley 2 beautifully expands upon the beloved first game with a greater focus on character.
Monument Valley 2 beautifully expands upon the beloved first game with a greater focus on character.

Highs

  • Beautiful audio and visual design
  • Satisfying environmental manipulation puzzles
  • Mind-bending, MC Escher-inspired environments
  • Heartwarming focus on mother-daughter relationships

Lows

  • Relatively brief and easy, like the first

Apple surprised a lot of people during its WWDC 2017 keynote address with the offhanded announcement that Monument Valley 2 launched on the iOS App Store Monday. Ustwo Games’ original 2014 mobile puzzler was a smash success, earning a raft of awards and nominations for its elegant gameplay and striking presentation, so the surprise release of its sequel is a major event for mobile gaming.

Like the original, Monument Valley 2 is a third person puzzle platformer in which you guide a character through beautiful, isometric environments by tapping where you want her to go. The built environments are heavily inspired by the impossible architecture of MC Escher, relying on perspectival tricks to do things like rotate a platform such that it visually (and thus effectively) bridges two areas that would be impossible to connect in actual space.

It never gets exceptionally challenging, but there’s still a satisfying frisson whenever you solve a given challenge.

Where the first game had one protagonist, the princess Ida, MV2 has two: a woman named Ro and her little daughter, following eagerly behind. The timid daughter follows directly behind Ro at first, but she gains more agency as the game goes on. First she mirrors Ro’s movement, and eventually she’s controlled separately.

At first MV2 returns to the same well of mechanical ideas that served the first game so well, with discrete sections of the level rotating or sliding around in order to create a path to the exit. As it goes on, it introduces more complex interactions, such as trees that grow when exposed to sunlight, and the previously-mentioned use of two simultaneous characters. Like the first game, it never gets exceptionally challenging, but there’s still a satisfying frisson, or feeling of excitement, whenever you solve a given challenge.

The audio and visual presentation are just as gorgeous as the first game’s, creating as immersive, coherent, and complete a world as you could ever hope to fit onto a single iPhone screen. The experience is quite meditative. Like the first game, there is also a photo mode that allows you to pinch and zoom to take pictures of particular sections at any point.

Perhaps the most striking difference between the two games is Monument Valley 2’s increased focus on story and character. Ida’s lonely journey through the first game lacked context, leaving players to ascribe meaning (or not). While the sequel’s story remains veiled, the addition of multiple characters makes the world much less sterile, and provides opportunities for more elaborate narrative themes. Ro’s relationship with her daughter is front and center, with the mechanics of how the two control telling a coming-of-age story as the daughter learns to strike out on her own. There are also interludes in which Ro consults with another, larger woman, offering sage, sometimes cryptic advice about mother-daughter relationships (“Even in youth we knew the work our mothers left for us.”) You can also see what appear to be memories of Ro as a little girl with her own mother ahead of you in certain levels.

Monument Valley 2 is more or less exactly what we wanted from a sequel to the fantastic first title. It takes and expands upon the ideas and aesthetic of its predecessor, creating another perfect, soothing little nugget of experience for mobile phones. The thematic addition of exploring mother-daughter relationships is the icing on an already delicious cake, giving it an emotional quality the first game didn’t achieve. While it shares the original’s drawbacks of being neither particularly challenging or long, returning and new players alike will find a lot to love.

Monument Valley 2 is available now in the iOS app store for $5. Presumably it will come to Android as well, as the original did one month after its Apple release, but there’s no official date yet beyond “soon.”