[Disclaimer: indie games that I review are reviewed differently than larger development team games; “AAA” games. This doesn’t mean I don’t hold them to high standards, but rather, I take into consideration different variables, such as the size of the actual development team, or the type of finances that were available]
Platforming games seem to be saturating the eShop these days, making it more difficult for indie titles to truly stick out amongst the crowd. Some implement familiar gameplay mechanics that are simply enhanced and built upon, while some rely on outstanding visual flare, while still others try for more difficult – and less utilized – 3D platforming. The latest title from Mobot Studios and Crescent Moon Games, Paper Monsters Recut, was originally on mobile devices; it has now made its way to the Wii U eShop. Does this title stand out in a crowd of platformers?
Visuals – 8.75/10
To me, this is one of the strongest aspects in Paper Monsters Recut. The game looks very nice, and I really enjoyed the “paper” feel to everything; the visuals do a fine job making this world look like it was crafted out of construction paper. These visuals help to create a world in which the player actually wants to progress through, with most levels having their own set of uniques visuals to combat visual fatigue.
With many platformers, if the level designs and visuals aren’t fresh or don’t feel new between every couple of levels, then the game can begin to drag and lose appeal. Thankfully that isn’t the case with this title. There are two things that specifically stood out to me: color usage and backgrounds.
I’m a huge fan of proper color usage, regardless of what colors are being used. They need to be injected into the world, bringing it to life for the player to admire. The colors are used very well in this title, from bright green plains set on baby blue backdrops, to dark underwater caverns filled with browns, black, and dark blues. Each level feels like its own world, enticing the player to keep playing.
The backgrounds in Paper Monsters Recut are superbly done. They give a great sense of depth, yet still retain the 2D feel to the title. The hills, clouds, trees, and other background objects look as if made of paper (go figure!), giving a much needed key to many side scrolling platforming games: charm. In fact, I would sum up the visuals in Paper Monsters Recut as charming and endearing.
As charming as the visuals are, however, there are a couple flaws. There were a couple of times the frame rate dipped a bit; it only happened a few times throughout the game, but they were rather noticeable. Also, I wasn’t too impressed with the character designs in the game, specifically the enemies/monsters speckled throughout. They just didn’t seem to capture my attention, nor were they very memorable. The animations aren’t always the smoothest, either, with some looking rather clunky in an otherwise polished world. For example, in a snow level a littler later on in the game, you jump into a sleigh (acting as a vehicle of sorts) and traverse the level by jumping over obstacles and on top of enemies; the animation of the jumping doesn’t look up to par to the standard the level itself sets.
These few complaints aside, I found the visuals in Paper Monsters Recut to be incredibly charming, very endearing, and well done.
Audio – 7/10
I had mixed feeling regarding the audio in this title. On one hand, the audio cues and sounds were spot on and very well done, while the music didn’t hold up as well. All the little noises – the adorable grunts from the protagonist, funny sounds the enemies make when being stomped, and various other cues – really add to the aesthetic of the world created in Paper Monsters. Where the title lacks is in the actual compositions themselves.
Though they aren’t necessarily bad, the compositions in the title don’t really stand out either. In fact, the only song that sticks in my mind is the opening music at the title screen. Other than that, most of the music is forgettable and acts as almost background music, as opposed to engaging the player and adding to the experience the way the visuals do.
Luckily, Paper Monsters does a well enough job to avoid audio repetition or “white noise.” Though the music wasn’t too inspiring, I never felt as though it was hindering the gameplay experience either; all due to the lovely audio cues and charming (there’s that word again) character noises.
What could’ve been a fantastic OST to match well done visuals ended up being fairly mediocre, but the overall audio in the title wasn’t bad by any means.
Gameplay – 6.75/10
The gameplay is solid, even though it’s a standard affair: jump on enemies to get rid of them, search for collectibles throughout each level, and navigate towards the end of said level. The controls are tight, and the mechanics are simple, making the actual gameplay an enjoyable experience.
In each level, the player journeys to get to the end – a pipe that warps the protagonist back to the hub-world – while attempting to pick up collectibles along the way. These collectibles take form in paper clips (have to keep with the paper aesthetic!) and golden buttons. Within each level, there are three paper clips to collect and one button. Though these ultimately don’t add anything to the story or gameplay (ie – upgrades, customizations, etc), they were fun to try and get, and added some extra gameplay time.
The simple gameplay is a double-edged sword for this title; the simplicity fits in with the charming nature of the game, but it also left me wanting more. There is plenty of actual content in Paper Monsters Recut, but the difficulty never truly increased, nor did it feel like any sort of challenge. The visual charm and audio cues helped to carry my interest all the way to the end, which you can easily spend a decent amount of time in this title; I spent about four and a half hours on the main quest, with just a few paper clips left to discover.
What could’ve pushed this title over to being fantastic was the gameplay. Unfortunately, the gameplay isn’t anything great, though it isn’t bad either. The solid gameplay mechanics and simplistic goals have some appeal to them, but just not enough to make this aspect stand out.
Entertainment Factor – 8/10
Though the gameplay was a little lacking, and the music a little uninspiring, I had more than a little fun with Paper Monsters Recut. Firstly, if a game can entice me to finish it and attempt to complete it 100%, that is a great sign it is fun. Secondly, there was so much charm here that I couldn’t help but enjoy myself with this title.
There isn’t really any story, save for some random characters explaining a predicament they’re in, and there are no online features outside of Miiverse posting. I think a title like this could’ve greatly benefitted from adding a plethora of Miiverse stamps as collectibles, since collectibles already played a role in it. Plus, the stamps would’ve been so darn adorable!
The title also incorporates the GamePad somewhat; when using the TV as the main screen, the GamePad becomes a quick navigation menu of sorts, showing the collectibles attained for the current level, as well as the option to see what has been discovered/collected across all levels. Off-TV play is very nicely done with this title, and the game looks very nice on the Pad screen.
Paper Monsters Recut stands out amongst the crowd with it’s visuals and audio cues, but falls short with subpar musical compositions and average gameplay. This title is by no means a bad one; in fact, I recommend this game as a solid indie platformer that will most likely entertain. If you’re looking for a solid, cheap game to enjoy and pass the time with, Paper Monsters Recut will get the job done in a very charming fashion. Paper Monsters Recut is available for $7.99 on the Nintendo eShop.
Overall – 7.6/10