Monument Valley Forgotten Shores | Principal Platforms: iOS (version tested), Android, Windows Phone | Developer: Ustwo | Publisher: Ustwo | Genre: Puzzle | Year: 2014
If Monument Valley Forgotten Shores is anything to go by then it appears that developing mobile games can be a thankless job. This is a premium expansion pack to the gorgeous puzzle game Monument Valley; and yet it initially fell victim to a wave of criticism whereby a minority of players called out developer Ustwo for being “greedy” in not offering the expansion free of charge.
Considering that Forgotten Shores offers as much quality content as the base game did, it’s hard to see how this tempest in a teapot began in the first place, but it does reveal a worrying mentality that’s spreading in the minds of consumers.
Forgotten Shores is clearly an expansion that required intense effort in order to produce as it’s never enough that levels like this should just look good. After all, this is a puzzle game and puzzles need to work. They need to make sense, they need to feel satisfying to solve, and when you’re working with physics that would have even a Discworld inhabitant gaping in awe; it’s surely a tough thing to get right. Should Ustwo really not be compensated for that effort?
It’s difficult to imagine anyone sharing such a viewpoint really, but then it’s clear that the market for “premium” mobile games is shrinking before people’s shifting perceptions concerning value. Anyone with any sense though will tell you the same thing I’m about to: Monument Valley Forgotten Shores is a very good expansion set and is most definitely worth paying for.
However, there is one caveat to this argument that can be easy to overlook. Forgotten Shores is an enjoyable expansion, but it is more of the same. If you didn’t enjoy Monument Valley because you thought it too short, too easy, or more of a guided tour than a video game, then this expansion won’t change your mind. Likewise, the title of this expansion is not Monument Valley: American Revolt; you’re not going to find an increase in challenge or complexity here so be sure to manage your expectations accordingly.
For the most part then, Forgotten Shores explores familiar territory, but it’s still beautiful territory to explore! Monument Valley has always been a joy to take screenshots of and this expansion shares that same elegant presentation of colourful visuals and soothing music.
The eight new levels are still like Mighty Max toys come to life; miniature playgrounds full of twists and secret levers that change the geography of your play area. Each chapter can be attempted in a semi-linear fashion and they’ll tickle your spacial recognition skills in some surprisingly fun ways.
The chapter titled “The Oubliette” is the equivalent of the base game’s “The Box” in that it’s an ingeniously designed toy box sure to prompt gasps of amazement from anyone seeing it played. If there’s a bit that you’ll be keen to show off to your friends then chances are this level will be the first one loaded up!
The structure of Forgotten Shores is the same as before; you’ll reunite with the totem creature, you’ll chat with a wandering NPC about vague story threads, and you’ll come across a final level that’s a lot more thinky than the ones that preceded it. Again, Monument Valley isn’t going to convert any detractors with this similar design, but the amount of enjoyable content here is significant and could easily have worked as a standalone companion piece before that of a mere add-on.
Forgotten Shores is largely the same in terms of gameplay mechanics although the levels themselves tend to be more layered than they were in the core game. Stages now have multiple sections to them and you’ll often have to move from one screen to another in order to make progress. This increase in scope is especially noticeable during the final chapter where Princess Ida must visit all four corners of a tower in order to assemble the key to her eventual escape.
Part of me can’t help but wish every level was like this in terms of challenge, but it would undoubtedly affect the game’s accessibility and one of the nice things about Monument Valley is that it can be easily shared with players of any skill level. Forgotten Shores is the best kind of video game expansion in this sense as it’s one that enriches the core experience without spoiling what made it so attractive in the first place.
The fact that I very rarely rate mobile games at all should speak volumes here. Monument Valley Forgotten Shores isn’t a pack of many new innovations, but it’s still a purchase that’s easy to recommend for those who have completed the base game and are hungry for more. And if you’ve yet to sample the delights of Ustwo’s impressive work here, then now is the perfect time to download both the main game and its expansion in preparation for the complete journey.
You know it makes sense.