Paper Monsters: Hand-Crafted, Cozy Platforming
Platformers are one of the main “comfort food” genres in video gaming. From the early days of single-screen arcade games to the scrolling adventures of the 8-bit era and all the way through to large-scale 3D worlds, gamers have been running, jumping, and falling their way across almost the entire history of the medium. When mobile gaming finally came into its own, it’s little surprise that a wide variety of developers had their own ideas about how to build games in this classic genre for these popular systems.
Paper Monsters opts to keep things traditional in many ways. Levels largely see you moving from left to right, jumping over obstacles, hopping on the heads of enemies, and collecting buttons that are scattered in various places. Those who choose to explore each level more carefully will find plenty of secret stashes of buttons and other goodies. There are plenty of fun gimmicks that will put your skills to the test, requiring good timing and a bit of boldness to proceed. A few levels hearken back to early portable platforming classics by having you hop into a vehicle, temporarily switching to a gameplay style more similar to a shoot-em-up.
While the gameplay in Paper Monsters is familiar and cozy, the game’s presentation is quite eye-catching. Background elements, enemies, and even the main character all seem to be hand-crafted from bits of paper, etchings from markers, fluffy balls of cotton, and so on. It gives the game the feeling like it’s something out of a child’s imagination. You could almost imagine each stage unfolding on top of a well-worn desk, with some bits of eraser and pencil shavings just outside of our view somewhere. This graphical style looks amazing on the high-resolution screens of modern mobile devices, and it gives Paper Monsters a style truly all its own.
The game largely plays out like a familiar 2D platformer, which makes it easy to forget that everything is built from 3D polygons. You’ll quickly be reminded of that when you pop into a pipe and find yourself sent to a point far in the background. Sometimes you’ll need to do this in order to get through the level, but other times it’s just a cool secret waiting to be found. It’s important to keep an eye on the bigger picture if you want to find everything. Not all the collectibles are just there to be collected, either. You can trade gold buttons for various costume parts to customize your character with, giving you a fun reward for your efforts.
Beyond the main story mode, there are a few enjoyable extra modes you can play. Drag ‘n Dash is an unlockable auto-running mini-game that is fun to dive into now and then. Punkin’ Time is a Halloween-themed set of stages full of spooky new elements and plenty of collectibles. Finally, there’s Heartbreak Shakedown, the reward you’ll earn for clearing the main adventure. It’s best to see what that one is all about on your own, but suffice it to say there’s still plenty to do after you’ve completed the story.
With its cute characters, hand-crafted appearance, and traditional gameplay mechanics, Paper Monsters is like a comfortable pair of slippers. It looks great, plays well, and is lots of fun without being frustrating. You can aim to simply play through it and enjoy the variety of locations, monsters, and gimmicks, or take on a bigger challenge by trying to clear 100% of every level. Apart from its appealing visuals, Paper Monsters has a genuinely cozy feeling to it that makes it easy to pick up and hard to put down.