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Paper Monsters

For: iPhone   Also on: Android, iPad

Beautifully wrapped

Product: Paper Monsters | Developer: Mobot Studios | Publisher: Crescent Moon Games | Format: iPhone | Genre: Casual, Platform | Players: 1 | Version: Europe | App version: 1.0
Paper Monsters iPhone, thumbnail 1
The words 'Mario' and 'LittleBigPlanet' in a review of a platform game signify both success and failure. On the one hand, the game is being compared with two of the world's greatest platformers. On the other, it's devastatingly unlikely that it'll come out on top.

But such is life. Paper Monsters will remind you of both games in every stage, thanks to its abundance of pipes, mushrooms, costumes, cutesy sprites, and smart touches like bomb characters that knock down obstacles when they explode.

It only sags in the areas where it doesn't resemble them enough.

As you'll already be aware if you've seen the screenshots, Paper Monsters is a beautiful game. The cutesy 2.5D levels are colourful and pin-sharp. Developer Robots vs Wizards has used its papery theme as a perfectly legitimate excuse to use flat planes and blocky polygons, which keeps everything crisp and running smoothly.

What's in the box?

You play as a robot made of cardboard boxes. At the beginning of the first level the game treats you to an animation in which the robot strolls up to a cute monster in trouble. As you approach the monster a beam of blue stuff turns him into a horrible little dragon. A couple of other dragons appear behind him, and then you run away.

That's pretty much the story.

The game is made up of four themed worlds, each comprising three stages and a boss fight.

Many of the stages are layered, with alternative routes and sections that you traverse in the background. Others put you behind the controls of a submarine, or throw you downhill in a minecart. The first – and most creative - boss fight involves moving a cannon and jumping on a button to shoot a baddie in the background.

Each stage contains three paperclips that you'll struggle to collect on your first go-around, adding some replay value for completists. There are also buttons, which you can collect and use to buy little outfits for your avatar.

As in LittleBigPlanet, you can also buy outfits with real money, but this is where the similarities end: there are no creation tools, and no toybox physics engine.

As well as the main single-player mode there's a Dash mode, in which you automatically run from left to right and have to get as far as you can while avoiding obstacles. This moves along rather slowly, and the landscape never changes, so the appeal is fairly limited. 

There are two control options. The default is virtual joystick, which entails sliding your thumb left or right. You need a pretty constant and controlled level of skin dryness for this to work well, so human beings may wish to swap to the more suitable touchpad. Both methods have advantages, and both are highly responsive. You won't miss buttons at all.

So far, so good. Paper Monsters is beautiful, charming, imaginative, technically slick, and packed with character. Now we have to turn our attention to the areas where Paper Monsters falls short, and to do so we need to bring up Mario again.

What's not in the box?

First, there are the pipes. In Mario, pipes are conduits to secret areas. Some are open and most are closed, inviting you to probe and explore. Finding a secret area in Mario can be thrilling.

The App Store description for Paper Monsters refers to secret areas. There are areas that are more difficult to reach, and areas that are tucked beyond exits or above platforms, and areas that you can close off by failing to make a jump or move an object to the right place, but there's very little sense of exploration because these areas are so common that you come to expect them.

Then there's the movement. In Mario, the very act of running and jumping is fun because Mario is subject to inertia. You need to get him up to speed and make sure he has room to slow down. At first it's a struggle to steer him, but in time you earn the good, clean, human satisfaction of mastering a skill.

In Paper Monsters, there's no curve to mastering movement. Not only can you double-jump from the off, but you can turn in the air, and when you stop pushing in a direction you simply stop moving. Getting around is easy.

This means you never get to experience the thrill of negotiating a section that would be impossible to somebody without the dexterity and muscle memory that you've just spent hours accumulating.

Now that we've just spent a couple of paragraphs holding Paper Monsters up against Mario, it's worth stressing that these omissions don't make Paper Monsters a bad game by any means. Not only is it beautiful, charming, imaginative, technically slick, and packed with character, but it's also fun.

The end comes too quickly (in an hour or so) and the gameplay isn't as polished as the graphics, but it's well worth the 69p/99c it'll cost you, and we're looking forward to seeing what the forthcoming updates bring.

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Paper Monsters
Reviewer photo
Rob Hearn | 26 January 2012
Paper Monsters is a beautiful, imaginative, charming, and technically proficient platformer that's only let down by less than stellar gameplay
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