My two-year-old daughter doesn't think of stars as huge bodies of flaming gas millions of miles away. She thinks of them as little five-pointed symbols that live inside books and on top of Christmas trees. In similar fashion, she knows that there's a moon in the sky but also thinks the glowing circles formed by domed light fixtures in our home are also moons.
Getting glimpses of how she's thinking about the universe is almost unbearably cute. And so is Paper Galaxy, which manages to cast the cosmos as a giant playground.
In this adorable title from Liquid Entertainment, you play a little lost moon called Luna who was chasing a cosmic butterfly and sneezed herself across the galaxy. The poor thin caught a cold and sneezed herself clear across the galaxy. Now she's being chased by the big, bad Crab Nebula as she tries to make her way back home to the safety of Mother Earth.
This iOS game adheres to the infinite-runner archetype but is oriented vertically. The goal is to keep going up, up up to travel the many light-years that separate Luna from Earth. After starting off with a big initial jolt, Luna hooks into the orbits of other planets, spinning and sneezing from one planetary body to another. Along the way, you'll collect stars for power-ups, special planets that can increase your momentum and hazards like black holes and angry suns that will slow you down or bounce you back.
Paper Galaxy looks like what might happen if the South Park guys ever decided to create an unscientific children's book about astrology. The character designs all ooze charm and get helped along by a too-good-to-be-true orchestral soundtrack. However, underneath all of the audiovisual appeal is a challenging gameplay arc.
Keeping your speed high is the key to success here and it behooves you to make use of the planets that will spin your around to build or rocket you forward to momentum. The timing on the orbits can be tricky to master but is crucial if you want to string together long runs. You can help yourself to in-app purchases of power-ups but can get along just find without them.
My kid is still too young to do any kind of gaming but if she were of age, I'd have no problem letting her play inside Paper Galaxy's fun construction paper aesthetic. And if you're an adult who actually knows that moons can't catch colds, it'll still probably hook you, too.
Paper Galaxy (on sale for $0.99, normally $1.99) [iTunes App Store]