App Review Tue: Monument Valley

This week's App Review Tuesday post is on the iOS application Monument Valley by the developer ustwo. Monument Valley is 1 part art and 1 part puzzle. It is a beautifully crafted game where every button or interaction you have with the app is just...well, it's elegant. Each Chapter within the app has a different puzzle to be solved. The puzzles consist of navigating the main character through a 3-D environment consisting of paths, stairs and all kinds of twists and turns. You interact with the game by pressing on a space within the 3-D space and the main character will walk over to where you pressed...very simple. This isn't a terribly challenging game, but it does make you think not only in 3 dimensions but in what I would call a distorted 3rd dimension. The developer was very creative when they developed this app and the puzzles within and half the fun of the app is the anticipation of getting to see the design of the next chapter. There is also a bit of a storyline as well.

Believe it or not, there is a bit of controversy with this game. The game costs $3.99 U.S. and a few weeks ago a new set of additional chapters were added to the game, nearly doubling the size of the game. But the update wasn't free. If you wanted the new 8 chapters of play you had to pay the $1.99 In-App Purchase. This sent a small fraction of the game's users through the roof and a steady stream of nasty 1-star reviews ensued. TUAW covered this story really well with the headline of their story being App Store gamers are cheap, angry and whiny. I had to point this out because I needed to rant just a bit about this. What has caused a small but rather vocal subset of today's society to have this deep-seeded belief that entertainment should be free? I'm pretty sure the development team at usto have bills to pay and families to feed. Be honest, how would you feel if tomorrow your boss walked up to and said that the general public didn't really feel you deserved to be paid for the work you do anymore so starting right now you will be working for free. How long would you continue to come into work knowing you would no longer get paid? Would you still be excited about what you were doing and keep pouring everything you had into your job? I know there are other models besides charging up front for the app that can make a developer money, but they are complicated and don't always work. Maybe I'm old-fashioned but in the very little free time I have I want to truly enjoy what I am doing. I don't want to constantly be asked to buy coins so I can continue playing or to share something on FaceBook to get an upgrade. Worse yet, I don't want to be flashed a bunch of annoying ads. Maybe that's just me and I'm a dying breed. Before the model of paying for things totally dies off enjoy the games out there like this one that deserves every cent they are asking as the price of admission. As long as developers keep cranking out quality apps like this I will happily continue to pay for them.

Speaking of paying for things, there is a bonus to this week's App pick. Monument Valley is one of the Apps that is part of Apple's Apps for RED initiative, which is raising money for the fight against AIDS. See my last post for more details. If you buy Monument Valley or the In-App-Purchase through December 7th, 100% of the proceeds go to Product RED (and Product RED uses 100% of its donations for the fight on the ground against AIDS). So spend a few bucks, enjoy the artistic beauty of a really well designed app and help a great cause all at the same time. Everybody wins...

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