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These are two crafty games to treasure on your smartphone. They manage to make you feel clever at the same time as being impressive, even artistic experiences. Especially the second one. Both are available on all app stores.

The first, Cell 13, is cheaper so is not as impressive, but still recommended and it’s a bit more physics-based. Clearly, it owes a lot to Portal, because it has, well portals, and a robot-type character that you need to get past various platform-based puzzles.

Sadly, the reliance on physics-based control also makes it at times frustrating, combined with (at time of writing) a few bugs which cause sudden crashes or quirks that force a restart to last checkpoint. But hey, you can still dive back into it and try again some other time, and it remains a level-based world of many possibilities to destroy boring moments everywhere.

Monument Valley 2 is pricier, but it’s the must-have sequel to Ustwo’s masterful, intuitive 3d puzzle experience. It has a slightly mysterious story, as you guide your tiny figure through incredibly complex-looking scenery (or deceptively simple) that shifts apart in spiritual and unexpected ways. Never has getting from point A to point B felt so magical and intriguing. The craftmanship and design that’s gone into the production is at times, awe-inspiring. It’s precisely this brand of game that gives you a reason to share (via the in-game camera) screenshots and feel good about the technological power inside a smartphone, which also elevates the whole touch-centric medium of mobile gaming.

A good way to describe this game to people is to mention those ornate, or antique, oriental-style boxes that were designed to click or slide open, or activate in unusual ways, and hide secret compartments. Playing this game is to help the tiny characters lost in such machinations, and yet accompanied by dreamy, ambient music. Throw in a strong dose of M.C. Escher, the artist/wizard who once conceived of now-famous, illusory paintings and you have an endless playground and perspective on life. He may never have guessed how immersive his art would one day become.

[Another game Hocus makes more of an honest, flagrant tribute to Escher - but that’s another review].

This time around you start off as a girl called Ro, and you have a companion who follows along. This creates mystery from the outset, with a wide colour pallette and well-spaced starter level for anyone not used to the MV format.

The scenery is even more attractive than before, and you can tell the developers are going deeper into their own puzzle world; but moving more ‘outside the box’ as it were. This also makes it more kid-friendly and accessible.

Where the game really excels is in the level of surprise infused either in the puzzles and paths or platforms themselves, or when a ‘game event’ occurs. An example of this is in ‘level’ 2, when a landslide sweeps down, destroying staircases and pathways in what was becoming a nice, easy-going progression. It separates you from your daughter character, and now you must find a more lengthy (and more Escher-style) way to get back to her. Life’s little surprises eg?

In most games, you can predict where you might end up in a level or situation. This is certainly not the case when finding point B. The sense of exploring intuitively - and succeeding - is at times, profound. In terms of surprise, you could end up in any direction, or retracing your steps to find the hidden exit.

There are many messages throughout Monument Valley 2 including one about age and youth, parenthood itself (or when to hold on and when to let go), but always the most powerful is that how in doing and progressing intuitively, it’s always possible to work out a way. This is perhaps because it’s not impossibly challenging at any time, which would kill the game, potentially. It’s clear that Ustwo games are aware of this, and want it to be a consistent journey, so they keep the surprise and variation level very high at every turn. No easy feat.

There are even times when you’ll be rotating your phone just to try and view the level problem another way (which might also be the perspective of the the daughter character, who is upside down). Such ingenious level design must’ve have taken some time to create, and adding a character to the progression even more so... but the game pulls it off.

Monument Valley 2 is not a world you’ll be in any hurry to complete, or to leave. The standard for mobile games has once again been set.


Obviously there are many, many more mobile games and apps out there but maybe these highlights will help guide you towards a couple of treats, just like a Monument Valley 2 level. If you have kids, this will also keep them entranced in a more intriguing way, to the usual zombie-blasting or more transient kind. But if you do splash some cash a bit more, you’ll give them something to remember, or come back to.

Cell 13 is actually the more challenging game, but Monument Valley takes you more on an artistic journey, and if nothing much else, teaches you that there is always a way through the hardest-seeming situation, simply by looking, and exploring.
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