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Monument Valley is an Escher-inspired iOS treat

We're big fans of the work of M.C. Escher at Creative Bloq; his impossible landscapes and twisted geometric patterns are beautiful and intriguing, and time spent gazing at them is never wasted. And so we were delighted to get our hands on ustwo's Monument Valley; not only is this new game one of the best iPhone apps available right now (it's just as lovely on the iPad too), it's also a brilliant piece of experimental design that's clearly inspired by Escher's reality-mangling work.

So what is it? It's a brain-troubling puzzle game where you explore a number of gorgeously-realised isometric 3D worlds. Getting around is simple; you tap on the ground to tell your little character where to go, and as you progress there you'll need to alter the layout of the world to get any further.

Switches will cause chunks of landscape to slide into view, making previous barriers easily traversable. There are whole pieces of scenery that you can move around yourself in certain places, often rotating them in three dimensions.

Something's not quite right there...

Something's not quite right there...

That's where things get really interesting, because in complete violation of the way you expect the world to behave, you can sometimes make an impassable gap disappear completely by revolving the world so that two separate paths meet up, and if they appear to meet up you can walk straight between them. It's an impossible yet excellent confusion of 2D and 3D, just like Escher's best work.

Mind the gap. Except there isn't one. What?

Mind the gap. Except there isn't one. What?

Monument Valley's full of little perception-troubling moments like this; it's lovely to activate a switch and see vast chunks of world unfold and extend, like in some crazy isometric version of Inception. Our very favourite level starts off as a small cube and ends up unfolded and expanded across the whole screen.

It's gentle fun in which you never get killed; the worse thing that happens is that you get shouted at by bothersome crows. The puzzles are tricky but not too taxing; you'll never end up completely stumped for too long.

Our main criticism is that it's not an especially long-lasting game. We ambled through it in maybe a couple of hours, and once it's over we're not sure you'll want to play through it again; solving the same puzzles just isn't as much fun the second time round.

Monument Valley's full of geometric impossibility like this. Best just to accept it and move on.

Monument Valley's full of geometric impossibility like this. Best just to accept it and move on.

However, the journey through Monument Valley's enchanting and intricate worlds is so thoroughly entertaining and absorbing that it's hard to get too upset about the lack of replayability. Enjoy the trip while it lasts; it's brief but utterly, Escherly superb.

Ever wondered how to design an app? Take a look behind the scenes of Monument Valley.

Key info

  • Works with: iPhone, iPad
  • Price: $3.99/£2.49
  • Developer: ustwo
  • Version: 1.0.3
  • App size: 147 MB
  • Age rating: 4+

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Jim McCauley is a writer, performer and cat-wrangler who started writing professionally way back in 1995 on PC Format magazine, and has been covering technology-related subjects ever since, whether it's hardware, software or videogames. A chance call in 2005 led to Jim taking charge of Computer Arts' website and developing an interest in the world of graphic design, and eventually led to a move over to the freshly-launched Creative Bloq in 2012. Jim now works as a freelance writer for sites including Creative Bloq, T3 and PetsRadar, specialising in design, technology, wellness and cats, while doing the occasional pantomime and street performance in Bath and designing posters for a local drama group on the side.

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