Making a good platformer for the iPhone can be a challenge, which is part of the reason we’ve seen the auto-runner genre explode in popularity. The simpler control scheme lends itself well to a touchscreen, whereas more traditional platforming can be pretty unwieldy. However, once in a while a platformer comes along that works well in more than just one dimension of gameplay. For the most part, Paper Monsters is an example of said quality.
Paper Monsters has you controlling an adorable little cardboard robot through fairly traditional platformer levels. The controls are really tight, using (by default) a virtual d-pad that appears wherever you place your left thumb on the screen. You jump and double jump simply by tapping the right side of the screen, and we never found ourselves struggling with this control setup.
The things you do while in control of your little cardboard friend are mostly a joy, as well. The game has four chapters of four stages each, and most of them are very satisfying (and extremely replayable, thanks to secret paths and hidden items). Each chapter is punctuated by a boss battle, and this is unfortunately where the game breaks down.
For a game that is characterized by excellent action and level design, it is all the more disappointing that the bosses are so bad. They’re each weak in their own way, but the final two bosses are easily the most unimpressive.
Zip up your coat, you’ll catch a cold.
The penultimate boss encounter is with a bomb-wielding spider who also sends little walking bombs at you. Trouble is, we immediately found an easy way to exploit this boss and his minions: By standing in the center of the stage, we could wait around taking no damage at all, despite the many threats on-screen. Then, when the spider would run across the screen, we just jumped and hit him. There’s something to be said for finding a tricky way to beat an enemy, but this was just boring and it didn’t make us feel clever for discovering it.
The spider exploit is a great example of how anticlimactic these encounters reveal themselves to be, and the final boss is no different. In your final challenge, you simply have to jump up to a button that wins you the game, and you lose if you fall to where you’d been before. There’s no environmental reason to kill the player if he or she does so, and the entire level is incredibly awkward and unrewarding.
It’s a shame that Paper Monsters handles its bosses so poorly, because most of what’s in the game is truly excellent. Outstanding platforming aside, Paper Monsters is also one of the best-looking games to hit the App Store in recent memory, both technically and stylistically. The world and its inhabitants have a ton of charm. While it’s far from perfect, it’s easily worth a look because of how well it does the things it does right.