Throw us all into a static little room with the capacity to grow and the power to destroy, and we’ll be occupied for hours. Agar.io, Slither.io, and the newest addition to the genre, Paper.io, have all shown us that these basic compulsions make for pretty compelling gameplay. However, for all its predecessors lacked, Paper.io has dramatically improved upon the .io form and made arguably the best version yet.
To succeed in Paper.io, you must direct an ever-moving square to cover as much area on the board as possible. You can only move up and down or left and right by swiping or tapping relative to your previous position. If someone crosses your path before you fully enclose an area, you’ll die. If you cross your own path, you’ll die. If you hit a wall, you’ll die. That’s it. But something about these very basic parameters makes for an addictive and engaging experience, and Paper.io has created an appealing design to make it even better.
The minimalist geometries of the drifting square felt like a retro callback to pixel pushing in 80s Turtle graphics, but the fresh and juicy color palette gives it a cheerfully updated look. Collectible pixel avatars are reminiscent of Crossy Road and feature charming little sprites like a rainbow-trailing unicorn, a mud-smearing pig, a road-laying firetruck, sushi, different fruits, and even seasonal options like a reindeer or decorated tree. Unlike some other .io games, the overlapping colored territories look nice as they grow, due to the clear palette choice. And if you don’t use an avatar, but rather a random color from the generator, they’re always appealing rather than ugly, as other games have been.
There are two measurements for success: gold coins which you collect by occupying space, and eliminating other players or your high score percentage which shows how much of the board you’ve been able to conquer in one session. The coins you can use for avatars and the high score is just for bragging rights. You can also purchase coin packs if you really want a new avatar quickly.
There are a lot of ads, and they are really disruptive to the overall flow of the game. I found that once I removed the ads through an IAP (which also included a pile of coins), my overall performance began to improve considerably. Jumping quickly back in to the space means that you might be able to attack someone who just bested you (depending on where you spawn), or you might be in a better position altogether for a more successful run.
Occasionally there is a slight lag in responsiveness, which can be frustrating if it causes you to do something silly like run into a wall. There also seems to be a proliferation of bots which I suspect because of their highly unlikely travel patterns which trace out a long zigzag. With the controls as they are, accomplishing multiple far-reaching zigzags in very fast succession seems only possible by programmatic means. The bots don’t particularly effect the gameplay, but it does feel more fun to think I’m battling other players for territory rather than bots.
Overall, Paper.io is fun, addicting and definitely worth the free download, especially for .io fans. Those who maybe didn’t understand the appeal of these games will enjoy the simplicity Paper.io brings to the genre, along with the vibrant and charming aesthetics.