What is Monument Valley?
Monument Valley is a puzzle-platform mobile game that saw a lot of popularity a couple of years ago, and remains a well-known name today. In Monument Valley you control a princess named Ida as she traverses various isometric puzzle environments, with the intention of finding the exit. It’s a beautiful game, and it was praised for its innovative level design and originality. The biggest issues that critics had with Monument Valley? Too short! It’s an incredible game that ends too soon, leaving fans to wander in search of a similar experience.
Although it’s difficult to find a game that perfectly captures MV’s original atmosphere and narrative, I think a couple of the games on this upcoming list come pretty close. When I made this list, I didn’t just think of games that had gameplay similar to Monument Valley’s. I wanted to find games that had that same sense of magic, awe, and ingenuity. Although indie platformer style games are really easy to stumble upon in 2017, this list is dealing with the cream of the crop.
BADLAND is an intriguing game. It’s a side-scrolling action game that I think can only be described as Flappy Bird if Flappy Bird were actually good. It takes the same “tap to stay flying” mechanic that you’ll find in Flappy Bird-style games, but it has a lot more to offer than a tired control scheme. To begin with BADLAND is a lot smarter than its competitors. Although you’ll be spending a lot of your time dodging different obstacles, there are a few puzzles that will stand in the way of you and your goal. BADLAND offers an excellent co-op experience, which is great, since a lot of puzzles require a good deal of teamwork to get through.
Not to mention, the game is absolutely gorgeous. You can take a screenshot at pretty much any given moment and get a great desktop background. There are plenty of levels available to play, which means you won’t have to worry about beating the entire game in a single sitting. I really like BADLAND, and I think that its simple gameplay and fantastic game world would appeal to any fan of Monument Valley. However, this game doesn’t have much of a story. I think that Monument Valley’s subtle storytelling was one of its strongest features, so to not have a story at all puts you at a major disadvantage in my book. If you’re looking for a great story, scroll on!
First of all, I think that it should speak to the quality of the remaining items on this list that Transistor ranks fourth. It almost pains me to place this game so low, since it’s easily in my top five of favorite games, period. Transistor’s gameplay is pretty radically different from Monument Valley’s. Transistor is an action-RPG, which means you spend a lot of time plotting out your next move and killing things. As an RPG, I think that it could be argued that there are puzzle elements to this game. Plus, there are some side-levels that you can complete that are definitely puzzles, since they usually involve more strategy than the main campaign. Still, it’s very different.
From an artistic point of view though, Transistor and Monument Valley are very similar. Both games are played primarily from an isometric point of view. Both games have great stories that really make you feel certain feelings that can’t be described with words. Both games are very colorful and nice to look at. Both games have excellent sound design, and a soundtrack that fits well with the rest of the game. (If you’ve ever played a Supergiant Game, you would know that an amazing soundtrack is pretty much standard.) So, if I love this game so much, why did I rank it so low? Basically, I think that it’s a little too complicated. There is a decent amount of strategy involved in this game (especially when you start using limiters) and it can be difficult to get a hang of in the beginning. All of the other games on this list can easily be picked up and learned within a couple of minutes. Transistor, unfortunately, isn’t quite as simple. Aside from that, though, it’s close to perfect.
If we’re being serious, Braid was a visually stunning puzzle game before it was cool. Its release date precedes all of the other games on this list by a couple of years (at least) and it has served as a benchmark for many indie games that have come after it. In Braid, you manipulate time to aid the protagonist on his mission to rescue a princess. Braid is presented to you as a platform-style game, but players quickly realize that the time travel mechanic completely transforms the gameplay. The result is a game that often feels more puzzle than platformer.
Remember when I talked about how a lot of people thought that Monument Valley was too short? Another common critique of Monument Valley was that the game was too easy. You don’t have to worry about difficulty with Braid. The difficulty of this game changes in a weird way. Unlike most puzzle games, where the game gradually becomes more difficult over time, Braid is all over the place. You can have an easy puzzle, then a hard puzzle, then an easy puzzle, and then three more hard puzzles, and so on. I guess you could say that this is lazy game design, but I think that it adds an additional level of challenge and suspense to the game that you wouldn’t have otherwise. My only issue with Braid is that I don’t personally think that its art style has aged very well. Although it doesn’t look bad, it’s still very late 2000s. Some of the newer games on this list make Braid look like an old Flash game. Normally, this isn’t that important to me, but I think visuals are important when you’re looking for games like Monument Valley, a game that was so highly praised for its graphics.
When you first look at Limbo, you might think that it belongs in the horror genre. And you would be partially right. Although the game isn’t really outright “scary”, it certainly does a few things to make it feel more unsettling. The entire game is monochrome, and there isn’t really any background music. This makes the game feel unsettling, and it puts the player on edge. The game itself isn’t that scary, though, despite touching on some darker themes that you usually find in these sorts of games. In Limbo, you play as a boy who is running across a strange landscape in a search for your sister. Along the way, you encounter different strange creatures and happenings.
Gameplay in Limbo manifests primarily as a platform-style game. It’s a 2D sidescroller, so you’ll be spending a lot of time jumping, scaling ledges, and so on. Towards the end of the game, Limbo introduces traps into its gameplay. This makes the game feel more like a puzzle-game, although I would still be hesitant to call it such. Just like Monument Valley, this game has very subtle storytelling. Whether this is a good or bad thing is a matter of opinion, but both games require the player to put the pieces together, as opposed to just outright telling them what is going on. Although the gameplay is really different, the overall vibe is the same. I would like to rank this game higher, but I don’t think that it’s a puzzle game. Although Monument Valley is also kind of a platformer-style game, it’s definitely a puzzle game first. However, the games are similar in concept and atmosphere, and I recommend it if you like that way that Monument Valley handled its narrative.
Fez is pretty much the exact visual opposite of Limbo, to the point where it’s kind of funny to see the two games side-by-side. Where Limbo is colorless, Fez is almost eye-burningly bright. Although Monument Valley is definitely more subtle, there are definite visual similarities between it and Fez. In fact, Fez actually served as partial inspiration for Monument Valley’s original visual style. Fez’s gameplay is also equally easy to understand. In Monument Valley, you need to move someone to a certain point. In Fez, you’re rotating a puzzle around to allow your character to collect cube fragments. Neither game requires many tutorials. It’s all very self-explanatory.
Fez is longer than Monument Valley’s main story, so if you’re someone who was dissatisfied with the latter’s length, you don’t have much to worry about. Fez’s main story is around 6 hours long, but it can definitely run longer if you try to 100% the game. Fez can also be quite difficult, especially as you do go to complete the game in its entirety. Like Monument Valley, Fez’s puzzles can often feel much more complicated than they actually are, which leads to an especially satisfying user experience. While challenge is good, and it’s definitely present in Fez, it’s also nice to have a game that makes you feel like a genius sometimes. Also, although I understand that a lot of people are tired of pixelated graphics in indie games, I think you’ll find that Fez isn’t really obnoxious about it, unlike Phil Fish, and that it actually manages to look pretty nice. (I still think Monument Valley looks better, though.) If you’re looking for a game that can itch your puzzle fix, but that still has Monument Valley’s simplicity, eye candy, and overall fun, this is probably the safest bet.