Having formerly worked on the real-time strategy PC title Battle Realms, Liquid Entertainment have side-stepped to assemble an iOS title that aims for a younger audience, whilst maintaining intricacy that caters to adults. Paper Galaxy is the end result, a one-finger ride through space.
Introduced in a cartoon page format, Luna is a star-crossed moon in a big galaxy who has sneezed so violently he’s been propelled into the snapping claws of the formidable intergalactic crab (of Doom, presumably). We’ve got to help him bounce back through space and get back to Earth. To guide him on his continual journey are hospitable planets, collectable stars, purple gas that bestows super sneezes capable of flinging Luna great lengths, and a friendly butterfly that signals the way.
Following another sneeze that frees Luna from the crab’s grasp, you control the moon by tapping your finger on the screen. Doing so then uses a super sneeze or allows you to shoot from a planet. By tapping as you orbit a planet you’ll project Luna in the direction he’s facing. As you follow the butterfly and build up a combo the speed increases, introducing the risk that’ll you fling towards an undesirable or into empty space.
Not all of the planets are there for combos, nor are all of them helpful. The gas giant contains a purple cloud that grants an extra powerful sneeze, comets dressed up as WWII pilots can be propelled with dexterity, and Elvis, who isn’t dead, he just turned into a true star, now signposts your furthest distance. To hinder your progress are suns that’ll send Luna zipping away in a ball of flame and evil black holes that absorb time.
The galaxy and its planets are presented in a colourful paper cut-out manner. Friendly planets adorn smiling faces whilst those that provide a risk are clearly signed posted with miserable looks or evil eyes, making good and bad instantly identifiable to younger eyes. Luna himself is as cute as a globe of grey rock can be, sneezing away and growing bored if the speed dips dramatically, and welcoming worlds greet him into orbit with cheeky smiles.
To aid each run you can spend amassed stars and receive rewards for completing goals. The occurrence of specific planet types or sneezing abilities can then be increased. As a low priced app there are inevitable in-app purchases too. Rather than collect the stars which act as currency, they can be purchased for money. However, the pricing is of little incentive. $0.99 gets you 1000 stars which will buys little in the way of advancements. This is a model that has never enticed me. If it requires more of a grind then so be it.
And grind you must. With a considerable distance to navigate, poor Luna wasn’t even making it halfway to Earth after several of hours of trying. It can also be frustrating when you’re unable to see the location of the next planet in the combination as the butterfly floats off screen. A visual indicator, whether an arrow or glitter trail left by the butterfly, would overcome these ‘80s-era leaps of faith.
Missing a planet or misjudging your aim can result in Luna slowly gliding through space, missing nearby orbits. If you’re really unfortunate he’ll bypass many stars and slow down to a plodding pace, whinging until he finally comes into contact with a nearby planet. The orbit length can slowly be increased but it will happen frequently earlier on. This will be especially of an inconvenience for the young audience it aims for who might not have the hand-eye coordinator necessary to maintain speed.
To counterbalance these negative elements, the visual and musical style has a light-hearted and warming influence. It certainly impressed my girlfriend who forgave the moments of frustration and has since bought the game herself. A rarity indeed. Overall, Liquid Entertainment has succeeded in their goal even if Luna and his galaxy could have benefited from further nurture.
Version 1.01 reviewed