Paper Monsters Wraps Up a Wonderfully Imaginative Platformer

Posted: January 27, 2012 in Platformer

Platformers have been a mainstay of video games since forever, and it’s always amazed me how Super Mario Bros became and has remained the standard in this genre.  It’s not uncommon for new entrants into the genre to compare themselves to the Super Mario franchise.  In the case of Crescent Moon’s Paper Monsters, the comparison is fair to a certain extent because this is a charming platformer that will likely have players begging for more.

Paper Monsters follows a relatively innocuous albeit imaginative storyline in a place called Paper Land that has been taken over for better or worse by paper monsters.  Playing the hero is a cute robot that happens to be made of cardboard.

For the most part, everything is made of paper (let’s just assume everything is recycled and environmentally safe), so there is an origami-like feel throughout but in a very good way.  While Paper Monsters is a 2D platformer at heart, the 3D graphics are easily among the most visually appealing in the genre.  It is simply a beautiful game, full of vibrant colors and multi-layered animation, complemented by a melodic soundtrack that sets just the right tone.  There is plenty to take in as you venture throughout the levels, and in some cases, you’ll see that things that you previously missed.

Paper Monsters is all about adventure so players will take the little cardboard dude through four chapters—Paper Hills, Yibiki Peaks, Cardboard Dunes, Papyrus Ruins—each with four sublevels for a total of 16 levels.  Also, once you’ve cleared the first chapter, Dash mode is unlocked.  This mode by itself would be worth the price of admission is basically a runner-type game where players guide one of the paper monsters at full speed through various environments.

When it comes to platformers, controls more than anything else can determine the success of a game.  Paper Monsters offers two types of controls—floating joystick and the classic touchpad.  Players who select the floating joystick basically breaks out the screen into two sides.  Touching anywhere on the left side controls movement and tapping the right side activates the robot’s jumping abilities.  Tapping the jump action twice results in a double jump.  With the touchpad, the bidirectional pad is fixed on the left side of the screen, while tapping the right side to jump remains the same.  In both schemes, an option doesn’t exist for flipping the controls.

For the most part, both control schemes work well, although the floating joystick tends to feel awkward and even loose depending on the type of environment that needs navigating.  I find the classic touchpad to be my control preference primarily because it feels more natural.  A nice tweak in a future update may be to include some floatability to the touchpad.  Fortunately, players can easily switch between the control schemes at any time by pausing the game which is extremely useful based on the environment.  In general though, getting around is not difficult at all.

Paper Monsters is all about the goodies and the waiting to be discovered hidden secrets.  The game offers a tutorial in the first level of the chapter, and along the way, players will see “?” sign posts that offer information on rewards and obstacles among others.  Besides getting the little paper robot through each level safely, the objective is collect buttons and paperclips while dodging the various paper baddies and maneuvering obstacles.  Of course, there’s also the building up a high score thing if you’re into that.

The foundation of the game is silver and gold buttons.  Silver buttons are worth points and bonuses, while Gold buttons are used to buy goodies for your diligent robot friend.  Every 50 silver buttons automatically changes into a gold button.  As players accumulate gold buttons, they can be used to purchase outfits and gear in the Buttons Store.

The developers include IAP in the Buttons Store so players can purchase additional buttons in order to trade them in for items.  IAP has been a mixed bag in the iTunes store because some games make additional purchasing contingent to advance in a game.  Not so in Paper Monsters.  Because buying these outfits and gear doesn’t provide any gameplay advantage, nor have any impact on progressing in the game, players don’t really need to make any additional purchases.  On the other hand, this could be an opportunity to include more power ups in future updates which can only add even more variety to the game.

Each level also contains three gold paperclips and once all of them are collected in that level, additional bonuses are provided.  Also, players will come across Gift Boxes that when unwrapped contain additional bonuses such as extra health and Adventure cards which unlock hidden areas.

The gameplay is where Paper Monsters makes it mark.  Each whimsical level has places to visit.  Warp pipes allow for travel to other areas, and many of them lead to platforms in the foreground.  While the game is not overly difficult, the sections in the background are much smaller and even hidden by objects in the forefront.  You’ll find juggling mines and cannons as well well-timed jumps all part of the job.  Plenty of variety exists throughout from jumping on mushrooms to riding through moving platforms to reach other areas.  Jumping on baddies turns them into confetti roadkill, and the controls are more than adequate enough to make precision jumps from one platform to another.

Depending on your objective, you can either aim for a high score which involves collecting as many buttons and dispatching enemies as possible or you can simply speed through the levels by playing it safe.  Of course, scoring as many points as possible means bypassing what are seemingly difficult obstacles, and the game provides a well-balanced approach.  I’ve replayed numerous levels in order to collect missed items and improve my score.  In either option, there are checkpoints identified by a colorful pinwheel.  Starting over from a checkpoint can be a little pointless since this entails beginning at zero so only use this if the objective is to clear the level regardless of score.  Regardless, collecting items and secret paths adds to the replay value.

There are also a number of achievements through GameCenter which are pretty standard since they focus on acquiring treasure.

Paper Monsters does have its share of shortcomings.  The levels tend to be on the short side and frankly, there aren’t enough levels in general.  While nothing in the game is groundbreaking which not intended to be a slight, the boss fights with the likes of Mublum, Paperus, Bill the Spider and Lord Papyrus can feel less than satisfying because of the lack of difficulty.

Crescent Moon has created a charming and imaginative world with Paper Monsters.  With vibrant worlds and even more charismatic characters, this platformer should appeal to almost everyone.  This is a terrific platformer, and it’ll be interesting to see what the devs come up with in future updates because players will undoubtedly want more.

Albie Meter: 4.5 Stars (a visual treat of a platformer in an imaginative world; easy to learn controls with replay value; intuitive gameplay with plenty of places to visit; may be too easy for some with mediocre boss battles; chapters can be short but future updates should address this)


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