For a mobile game to be deeply moving, but also minimal enough to satisfy the needs of a casual player, is a very, very impressive feat. Ustwo accomplished that with Monument Valley, and they’ve managed it all over again with Forgotten Shores. Despite inferences that Forgotten Shores takes place as an appendix to the main storyline, it has its own internal narrative that is still just as compelling, and level design that pushes the envelope of the unique mechanics introduced in the original.
The supplement to the original Monument Valley adds eight new levels to the game, which almost matches the ten levels included in the original. These aren’t just new twists on old templates, however; while some familiar controls and mechanics reappear, some additional twists, modifications and subtleties make for moments where a player is still surprised, as well as continually delighted by the muted, playful aesthetic and the rewarding feeling that comes with solving each level’s Escher-esque environment design.
Like the original, overall play time is not incredibly long. I finished the game in a little over an hour and a half (with a few distractions), which again is pretty much on par with Monument Valley’s first bundle of content. Some might see that as a failing, but given the considerable work that clearly went into crafting, and the amount of joy derived by a player going through it, even if that joy is concentrated in a period of time more compressed than most games can offer, I see it more as part of Monument Valley’s overall appeal – a fleeting, beautiful moment is much more valuable than a drawn out grind of the mindless variety, a la Candy Crush, for instance.
What I liked best about Forgotten Shores was the arrangement of the levels, when played through in order. The game’s creators seem to have put a lot of work into building the experience in a way that makes it easy for novice players to jump in, but that also ramps things up with a pace of increasing complexity and introduction of new mechanics that will leave players feeling clever and accomplished. The culminating levels, and ‘Oubliette’ especially, manage to feel like delicate gifts artfully wrapped, where enjoyment is had not only through exposing the present at the centre, but in each stage of revealing a new layer of packaging. Playing through Oubliette provided one of my best-ever experiences in gaming in terms of pure satisfaction, especially on mobile.
One of the more disheartening things I’ve seen in my time writing about tech is the growing number of 1-star reviews Monument Valley is garnering because they charged $2 for Forgotten Shores. Make no mistake: This game is worth the cumulative $6 you’ll pay for both the original and Forgotten Shores, and any argument to the contrary is absurd. Ustwo has delivered a game here that elevates the experience of smartphones and tablets overall, and I’d be happy to pay more than twice the price for the new content alone.