At WWDC 2017, a little over a week ago, Apple announced Monument Valley 2 for iOS. The original was highly acclaimed, and even found prominent mention in the Netflix series House of Cards. In the past, developer Ustwo has spoken out against a sequel, but a fresh team with new concepts and features changed things, the company said.
The game - out now for iOS, with an Android version in the works - is available for Rs. 400 ($4.99 in the US), and most of the early reviews were extremely positive. The original was also one of our favourite mobile games, thanks to its gorgeous design and intelligent gameplay. So it was obvious that we were going to give Monument Valley 2 a shot as well.
The sequel is - obviously and predictably - gorgeous and the delight of exploring the pastel worlds it presents alone is worth the price of entry. But the "freshness" that's promised is nowhere to be seen. The game has changed, yes, but only in the most basic sense. As an experience, Monument Valley 2 remains much the same as the original, only it doesn't even have the appeal of being something completely original and, thus, delightful.
When Monument Valley came, it had the advantage of there never having been anything to compare it to. Playing Monument Valley 2, you get a clear baseline to measure it against, and while the second game is still enjoyable, it's less satisfying nonetheless.
Monument Valley 2 is a gorgeous game that pairs impossible geometry with beautifully laid out landscapes, and characters who start off as ciphers and slowly gain in personality. Much like the original, the pastel colour palette stands out, and the now familiar towers are filled with strange systems to get you from point A to point B. Without spoiling things, the game features a series of puzzles - that are largely simpler than the original - as you work your way through a series of impossible buildings, slowly unfolding the story just like the structures themselves. It's all very pleasing, if familiar.
It's possible that people won't agree with this - we've seen vicious Twitter battles play out on this topic already - but Monument Valley 2 feels more like an expansion pack, rather than a new game. Both Monument Valley titles are short games that offer up a beautiful world for you to inhabit, but at this point, and after the hype of the WWDC reveal, perhaps our expectations were simply at the wrong place for this game to be worth the asking price.
This becomes clearer when you compare Monument Valley 2 to another iOS sequel that just released recently - Framed 2. The game released this week, also at Rs. 400 ($4.99 in the US), which makes for a good comparison. Framed is another one of those "concept" games you'll find on iOS; the original game from two years ago has a unique premise - you're shown a series of comic-book frames, and if you change the order of the panels, you can change the outcome of the story.
Pop art colours, sharp lines, and retro background music all come together to make Framed an engaging buy, though the concept wears a bit thin by the end of the game. Framed 2 recognises this, and fine tunes the game, elevating it from quirky and interesting, to must play.
The story of Framed 2 features the same characters and it's again told without any dialogue, but there's a lot of drama and emotion nonetheless. The different settings are dynamic, while the core mechanic of rearranging panels remains. You will rearrange the frames to determine what happens next, and find ways to evade capture using the environment.
The difference between these two sequels can not be overstated. Framed 2 is the result of a developer taking a hard look at its game, deciding it could do better, and delivering on that thought. Monument Valley 2 claims to be the same thing - but feels more like a developer looked at its output, and thought, "this is great".
As a result, where Framed 2 has not been afraid to change things up, making the police more effective and the storytelling crisper and more fulfilling. On the other hand, Monument Valley 2 tries to be a more faithful sequel, and in the bargain, misses out on building on the original.
As the reviews have pointed out, whether you're new to the series or a big fan of the original, Monument Valley 2 is well worth your time and money. But given how original the first game felt, we can't help but feel a little disappointed.