All too often, when an already well established game has successfully won its audience over via character, art and storytelling, can a sequel live up to those standards?
UsTwo Games comes just about as close with its standalone sequel to their 2014 hit, Monument Valley.
Guide a mother and her child as they embark on a journey through magical architecture, discovering illusionary pathways and delightful puzzles as you learn the secrets of the Sacred Geometry. Sequel to the Apple Game of the Year 2014, Monument Valley 2 presents a brand new adventure set in a beautiful and impossible world.
Help Ro as she teaches her child about the mysteries of the valley, exploring stunning environments and manipulating architecture to guide them on their way.
Like in the original Monument Valley, where first time players are greeted by a tutorial level, introducing the player to the game mechanics, Monument Valley 2 starts off with something strikingly similar. The player turns the crank, creates a bridge for the playable character and guides her upwards towards the platform, leading the player’s eyes to see the hills of the valley and the title card. The only difference is that the player is not controlling Ida. Instead the character they are guiding this time is a new protagonist named Ro, who like Ida, is embarking on her own quest to self-discovery. Unlike Ida whose goal was to seek forgiveness for depriving the monuments of their glory, her growth as a character stems from her relationship with her young daughter, whose name is never revealed.
For starters, story-wise Monument Valley 2 delves further into similar themes as the previous game, such as loneliness, returning what was lost and remaining true to cultural roots as seen from the rich history the monuments continue to represent. What Monument Valley 2 does to differentiate itself from its predecessor is take those themes another step further. For example, like Ida’s fear of being isolated after all her wrongdoing, Ro fears for her daughter’s safety, her respect and understanding of the sacred geometry and letting her venture the monuments alone. The Spirits also continue to serve the same purpose as they did in the previous game. Like how they would remind Ida of the main lesson of her quest, they remind Ro of her role in hers and even more so as a mother. In addition, Monument Valley 2 juxtaposes its storytelling and narrative with its core game mechanics, art style and various scenarios seen in Monument Valley. Even so, each level is also separated and introduced through chapters.
Going into art style and character, Monument Valley 2 consistently displays its embodiment and charm as fans of the first game would hope to see. The designs of the landscapes, locations and architecture are created with minor additional details and slightly new artistic techniques while remaining faithful to the original’s. Along with its familiar, minimalistic environments are the simplicity, yet reliability of its characters. As with the faceless designs and dependence on body language from the first Monument Valley, the animation and gestures of the characters continue to be effective and easy for the player to identify with them. Simple gestures like when Ro embraces her daughter or the young one’s bouncing in her walk convey more than just their archetype, but who they are as characters.
Puzzles and gameplay remain consistent to its predecessor by encouraging the player to look and see and usage of the touch screen interface to guide the playable characters. While UsTwo never ceases to intertwine its mechanics with its narrative in such a cohesive manner that players are familiar with and therefore connect with story and character as they did with Monument Valley, the only set back is that there are some moments where it seems not much creative risks where taken advantage of as was the case with its predecessor. Nonetheless, the craftmanship of each level design is on the same level of familiarity of the original. Aside from the puzzles being a mildly simpler than what players would expect, the storytelling might be a bit flawed for fans who would be hoping to learn more about the monuments, the Totem characters and the Spirits’ roles since the story does not focus on any of those details. Not to mention that other than a statue of one of the Crow people from the first game, the Crows are never seen nor mentioned. It can be an understandable critique, but taken into the context of the main story and that both Monument Valley titles are meant to be simplistic while conveying depth and emotion, the creative team at UsTwo do their job to retain their focus on the mother and child relationship as a standalone story, while keeping its ties to the original by reintroducing the themes from the first game and expanding upon them. It would have been interesting to have seen more of the underdeveloped concepts be further explored, but most likely, it would have possibly been too much of a distraction from the main story. Seldom do standalone sequels flow naturally, yet given UsTwo’s writing style and how they further expand upon themes the already covered they have made this sequel connect well to the first Monument Valley. For other topics that haven’t been covered yet, they can always be revisited in later titles.
Although Monument Valley 2 is slightly shorter and plays it safe with its new puzzle designs, it is one of those rare titles that prove a standalone sequel can be created with the same allure as its predecessor. The way UsTwo keeps that spirit flowing is by staying true to their roots in all aspects. From gameplay, to art, to characters and to narrative as well as extending into new insights from Monument Valley, the creative team demonstrates even introducing fresh new ideas can still blend effectively if the elements that drew players to the original are well utilized. Despite one or two minor flaws, Monument Valley 2 is a solid follow up to a modern classic that will keep its players deeply immersed in its fantastical world and relate to its characters as in the first.