Paper Monsters is everything good about Super Mario Bros and LittleBigPlanet crammed into your iPhone

I’ve been staring at my screen for the better part of an hour, trying to figure out how to start this review. You see, I’ve just finished playing Paper Monsters, and the game’s left me literally speechless. It’s just that good. It’s like Super Mario Bros. and LittleBigPlanet decided to put aside their differences, have a beautiful baby, and let the little bundle of awesome grow up on my iPhone. Seriously.

The story goes a little something like this. The realm of Paper Land is a happy place until a would-be conqueror and his paper monster minions hit the scene. Thankfully, there’s a nameless hero — who resembles nothing so much as an adorable robot — and who’s made from cardboard.

The 2D platforming is straight out of the classic Mario games. You control movement with your left thumb, which creates a virtual thumbstick when you touch the screen. However, if that’s not your bag, you can switch from the virtual thumbstick to a classic gamepad scheme.

This isn’t where the Mario similarities end, either. You take enemies out by stomping on them, and many of them seem like paper versions of Mario enemies (there are even little walking bombs who will affect the environment when they explode). Tapping the screen causes you to jump (and double-jump), and you collect items like buttons and paperclips as you progress through levels.

Meanwhile, you travel between areas (or sections in the background) via warp pipes. The background sections are a blast, since they keep the main part of the level in the foreground and you have to focus a little harder on what your character is doing while he runs around further off in the distance. There are even levels where you ride moving platforms over chasms; if you play things safe, you can avoid enemies easily, but you won’t be able to snag all the collectible items scattered along the way.

Paper Monsters

After you complete the first chapter of the game, the game’s Dash Mode is unlocked. This is a platform section where you control one of the paper monsters who happens to be running full-tilt through a sprawling environment. You have to guide the little guy past enemies, bounce off springboard mushrooms, and jump across bottomless gaps while collecting buttons and building up as high a score as possible. Like the rest of the game, this is insanely fun and addictive.

LittleBigPlanet‘s influence is obvious as soon as you look at the graphics. Even though the game is a 2D platformer, the 3D graphics look amazing, and it’s hard to not be reminded of Sackboy as you watch the cardboard hero run through his surroundings. The world of Paper Monsters is designed to look like a place that was created from complicated origami pieces, one fold at a time. The overall effect is awe-inspiring: This is one of the best-looking games you’re likely to find on mobile devices. It’s bright, beautiful, and bursting with color. Likewise, the music is a lot of fun to listen to, with catchy melodies that wonderfully fit the game’s setting.

Paper Monsters

Finally, you can customize your character’s appearance from within the Button Store. You collect buttons as you play through levels, but you can also buy them with real money. This is actually a great system, since the outfit customization doesn’t seem to provide any actual in-game bonuses; therefore, the only reason to spend extra money is because you want to, not because you need to in order to advance.

Paper Monsters is one of those rare games that come along once in a blue moon. It’s more fun than a night out with friends, and as flawless as diamonds. For lack of a better word, it’s perfect. Everyone should play this.