The “two” in Monument Valley 2 signifies more than the game’s sequel status. A pair of playable protagonists doubles down on the game’s complexity–at least on paper. Though the extra person does lend itself to a few cool twists, the experience largely remains as easy-going as its predecessor if not more so. It also hits the same speed bump of not pushing its ideas as far as they could go.
Like the 2014 original, Monument Valley 2 blends M.C. Escher-style perspective puzzles with a soothing presentation and equally pensive soundtrack. Finding a path to the end goal involves rotating architecture to create new viewing angles. By doing this, previously disconnected pathways can become one due to the perspective shift. It also allows the characters to traverse impossible routes, like moving upside down or at 90-degree angles.
Unlike the first game, which starred a single protagonist, the sequel tasks players with guiding two: the mother Ro and her child. The story weaves a simple yet relatable tale (thematically, at least) of a parent teaching their child the ins and outs of the world. Despite its minimalist storytelling, Monument Valley 2 manages to get its heartwarming message across. Watching the characters hug after being separated, for example, conveys all the emotion necessary without needing to say much. The narrative isn’t meant to blow your mind, and likely won’t. Parents, though, might find the tale charming and poignant.
Controlling the pair is as simple as tapping the spot for them to automatically walk to. Sometimes the child simply follows Ro, other times you’re guiding both independently on the same map. Most puzzles require using one character to hit a switch that opens a path for the other until both reunite at the end.
On paper, this would make for increasingly complicated scenarios. However, the previous game rarely presented a brain-busting riddle and that easy-going mentality carries over here. Despite having another pawn to navigate, very few puzzles will leave you scratching your head for long. Most call for simply spinning levers and knobs until the right path lines up. More often than not you’ll see the solution a mile away; all that’s left is to swipe the screen until the pieces fall into place. Additionally, the crow-like creatures from the first game, which acted as the only real opposition, don’t make an appearance here.
Instead of vehemently challenging your core understanding of perspective, Monument Valley 2 provides a light mental workout–and for the most part, that’s okay. The game thrives as a relaxing adventure perfect for decompressing. The beautiful and calming pastel colors, combined with a sharp art direction, can quickly sweeten a sour mood. Its serene soundtrack practically begs for headphones to truly melt into. The music occasionally caused me to nod off and I mean that as a compliment. Even just messing with knobs provides a strange satisfaction, partially due to the cool ways the architecture transforms when you do.
Many of the puzzles share similar ideas with the first game. For example, the sentient column used for pushing around makes a grand comeback. I could have gone for more radical departures for the norm; especially since the shake-ups present offer a ton of potential.
One memorable chapter features cubic trees that shrink or grow when swiped, lifting the player to new heights. Another level requires moving around detachable columns. As neat as these ideas are, they go away far sooner than I would have liked. It feels like Ustwo only scratched the surface with these mechanics, giving only a taste of their full potential.
The same holds true for the cooperative gameplay. Though Ro and her child stick together for the beginning and end portions, a middle segment separates them. Thus, the unique tandem gameplay takes a backseat to segments that felt way too similar to the first game. That disappointed me, as it felt like the dual-player theme was building up to something before it temporarily gets the rug pulled from under it. I understand the narrative reasons behind it, but I’d have rathered the two stick together the entire time so that the mechanics could evolve uninterrupted.
Monument Valley 2 is a totally acceptable follow-up that hampers its own potential to be something greater. Flashes of brilliance feel either intentionally subdued to maintain ease-of-play or abruptly cut off at their legs. I can better accept the former reasoning as the chill vibe stands as one of the game’s highlights. However, I”m bummed to see promising ideas come and go before they have a chance to truly blossom. Still, Monument Valley 2’s pros outweigh its cons. It remains one of the most alluring and polished games on the mobile market. Puzzle fans who don’t mind a breezier challenge should absolutely give it a look.