Game Review: Paper Moon

Released on May 1st, Paper Moon is a new, free-to-play indie platformer from Infinite Ammo, Adam Saltsman & Flashbang Studios and can be played exlusively on the relatively new (and might I add awesome!) gaming site, Blurst

The game puts you in control of a nameless protagonist as he journeys through a unique and beautifully rendered, pop-up-book-esque world to reunite with his lost (dead?) lover...i think. Well, the story is pretty much irrevelant as the meat of the enjoyment in this game comes from its gameplay and presentation. That's not to say that there is no attempt to bring a little lore into the game: between each level there are bite-sized poems that express the hero's sorrow of being without his lover. These are nice but they don't really add to or detract from the overall experience.

From a gameplay standpoint, Paper Moon is almost a cookie-cutter platformer: You use the arrow keys or WASD to make your character move and/or jump with the general goal of making it from the left side of the level to the right before time runs out. I say "almost" because there is one thing that sets this game apart: the ability to for you, the player, to manipulate the game world itself to aid our hero in his quest. It's very difficult for me to explain in writing but here's how it works: there are several layers of parallax used in the rendering of each level and each layer is only two-dimensional (Up-down and Left-right); there's the main layer in which your character and enemies exist; there are completely cosmetic background layers which serve no purpose other than aesthetics; and, most importantly, there are two layers directly behind and directly in front of the main layer which you, the player, manipulate. A simple press of the spacebar moves or "pops", as the game puts it, certain objects from the immediate background and/or foreground  into the main layer, killing enemies, making new platforms, and opening up new paths. This playful toying with 3-dimensions in what seems like a strictly 2-dimensional game works wonderfully and makes for a very compelling experience.

Like every game hosted on Blurst, Paper Moon is score-based and has limited play-time sessions. You earn points primarily by grabbing coi- I mean fruit and killing enemies. There is a combo system in place so grab those bananas and apples as quickly as you can! Also, you only have five minutes to complete all 3 levels of the journey but there are clocks hidden throughout the game that will turn back the hands of the inexplicable, ominous doomclock if you are so lucky as to find them. And that reminds me of my only minor tift with the game: all this collection combo and time limit stuff makes the game more frantic than it should be. This is a game that should be savored and not scarfed down for the sake of earning trivial digital numbers. It's like trying to blend and market filet mignon as a soft drink.

It is also worth mentioning that there are multiple paths to be taken...sort of; the first level and last level are always the same but, depending on where you finish the first level, there are 3 possible middle levels to find and play. Although I don't dislike this approach, I would have like to have seen a bonus mode where you can play all 5 levels back-to-back with a longer or no time limit (savory mode).

Graphics and Audio:
The audio-visual department is where the game truly excels. The black and white paper-cutout style is spot-on and a joy to witness. The background music is a minamalist almost-piano-only composition that reminds me of silent films, matching the style of the game perfectly. This is one of those cases where the game feels more complete and just makes more sense if you have its music going whilst playing.

Final Thoughts:
Paper Moon is a very fun, beautifully aesthetic and original game that gets bogged down slightly too often by making the player feel too rushed to truly enjoy it. In the future (a sequal perhaps), I would love to see a more fully fleshed-out adventure with more levels and features, using the same wonderful mechanics but without the franticism of the doomclock or the score non-sense. 

Play it, enjoy it, and tell us what YOU think about it.

Final Grade: A-

So it goes,

Picture from here


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