App of the Day: Paper Monsters
The fold and the beautiful.
If Art Attack's Neil Buchanan ever made a platform game, it might look something like Paper Monsters: a simple side-scrolling affair set in a bright, homemade world.
The jovial star of Paper Monsters is a nameless but constantly smiling cardboard box who merrily trundles along on tiny cut-out legs. He's a friendly little guy would probably rip off an arm if you needed somewhere to write down a shopping list.
You command his movements via a virtual control stick for your left thumb and a jump button for your right, which are wisely kept hidden by default to avoid mussing up the graphics.
Your angular paper pal can bound over obstacles and perform an acrobatic pirouette that double-jumps him to higher platforms. He also attended the Nintendo school of how to defeat enemies, so cheerfully hopping on the heads of your folded paper foes sends them crumpling into ticker tape.
The game's origami landscapes and wafer-thin scenery are a delicious collage for the eyes, full of papier-mâché toadstools and flowers that bloom as you pass. The art style looks good enough that you'll want to reach in through the screen and start pulling things apart along their Sellotape seams just to see how it all works.
While Paper Monsters' visuals draw the eye, its levels carefully trace the outlines of many a platformer before it. There are warp pipes that send your cardboard hero scuttling into the background of a level, or aquatic stages where you turn into a curiously waterproof paper submarine equipped with miniature torpedoes.
Cardboard-box-man's health is a constant worry, however. He's limited to three hearts' worth of life, which can be swiftly taken from him by passing enemies, falling icicles and other aggressors.
Elsewhere, Mario-style coins are replaced with buttons, and every stage features a number of hard-to-reach golden paper clips to acquire.
There are other collectibles, and special gold coins are awarded here and there. More of these can bought through in-app purchases and swapped for extra outfits and hats for your corrugated cardboard friend to wear, but all of this is entirely optional.
Originally, Paper Monsters only lasted 16 stages and several of those were quick boss fights, but developer Crescent Moon has just added a Valentine's themed present in the shape of six additional levels.
Players can also unlock an infinity-running mode, Drag 'n Dash. It opens up for free once you've finished the main game's first world. This little extra is, by itself, better than a lot of other 69p fare available on the App Store. Here you must time your jumps perfectly to guide a tiny dragon across an automatically scrolling landscape.
At a time when the App Stores are swamped with copycat games, Paper Monsters is much more than that. It may all sound a bit familiar, but while Crescent Moon's platformer may not be a treasure trove of new ideas, the concepts it cribs are neatly arranged and wonderfully executed.
App of the Day highlights interesting games we're playing on the Android, iPad, iPhone and Windows Phone 7 mobile platforms, including post-release updates. If you want to see a particular app featured, drop us a line or suggest it in the comments.