Monument Valley is a puzzle game developed and published by indie studio Ustwo. The player leads the princess Ida through mazes of optical illusions and impossible objects. Monument Valley was developed over ten months beginning in early 2013 based on concept drawings by company artist Ken Wong. Its visual style was inspired by Japanese prints, minimalist sculpture, and indie games Windosill, Fez, and Sword & Sworcery, and was compared by critics to M. C. Escher drawings and Echochrome. The art was designed such that each frame would be worthy of public display. After a closed beta test, it was released for iOS on April 3, 2014, and was later ported to Android. The game received generally favorable reviews. Critics praised its art and sound design, and noted its lack of difficulty and short length. It won a 2014 Apple Design Award, was named Apple’s best iPad game of 2014, and sold over two million copies by January 2015.
In Monument Valley, the player leads the player-character princess Ida through mazes of optical illusions and impossible objects, which are referred to as “sacred geometry” in-game, as she journeys to be forgiven for something The game is presented in isometric view, and the player interacts with the environment to find hidden passages as Ida progresses to the map’s exit. Each of the ten levels has a different central mechanic. Interactions include moving platforms and pillar animals, and creating bridges. The player is indirectly cued through the game by design elements like color, and directly cued by crow people, who block Ida’s path. Critics compared the game’s visual style to a vibrant M. C. Escher drawing and Echochrome. The game includes a camera mode where the player can roam the level to compose screenshots. It includes filters à la Instagram.
Monument Valley was developed by Ustwo, a digital design firm founded in 2004 that has produced iPhone apps since 2007. Their Whale Trail game received millions of downloads, and their other apps include design app Granimator and photo sharing app Rando. Monument Valley was conceived as a touch game for tablets. Its development began in the beginning of 2013, and lasted 10 months. It began with a piece of concept art drawn in an M. C. Escher style, and the final design did not deviate far from this original. Ustwo management did not give the development team a timeline or budget, and instead told them to focus on “making a high-quality product”. Games development is not a large portion of Ustwo’s revenue, so the company focuses its games development on producing “great products” that reflect well on the company, rather than highly profitable apps.
Of the art style, game designer and artist Ken Wong said he aspired to make each frame of the gameplay worthy of public display. The project began as Wong’s concept drawings before it became a game project. The visual style was inspired by Japanese prints, minimalist sculpture, and indie games Windosill, Fez, and Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP. Wong added that the gameplay was designed to let the player find the object of the game through exploration, without direct guidance. The game uses colors to signify where the player can interact, similar to Mirror’s Edge. Wong compared the gameplay experience to a cross between the wonder of a toy shop and the world of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and its story to a symbolic “song” rather than a narrative book. The game was designed to be completed by most players, a style uncommon for games designed for popular audiences. It was intended to be a “premium experience” rather than a difficult challenge.
The game was in beta as of December 2013, where it had over 1,000 testers and the average finish time was 90 minutes. It was planned as an iPad exclusive. The game was initially released for iOS on April 3, 2014, and the company recouped their cost of development within the first two weeks of release. An Android port went through two beta tests and was later released on May 14, 2014. More levels were in development, as of April 2014. Ustwo said they were adding the levels for “artistic reasons”, such as ideas they wanted to try but could not fit into the original release. Wong stated that, with consumer interest, the company would consider porting the game to other platforms. The game’s technical director said that the game was “not very difficult to port” since it was written in the Unity game engine. But as the game was built with a portrait (vertical) screen orientation in mind, the developer had difficulty converting the game for devices with landscape-oriented (horizontal) screens, such as the YouTube trailer video format and the PlayStation Vita.
An add-on expansion, entitled Forgotten Shores, was released for iOS devices on November 12, 2014, on Amazon Appstore on November 20, 2014 and on Google Play Store on November 24, 2014. This adds eight additional levels to the ten in the original game.