Monsters come in all shapes and sizes. Some of them are tiny little squares and circles with big eyes and toothy frowns. Others are sharp-toothed maw beasts. And sometimes those maw beasts like to eat cuter, smaller monsters. That you toss in their mouths. Using bombs. When you get down to it, Big Blue Bubble’s Paper Munchers [$0.99 / HD / Lite] is an illustration of the circle of life — little monsters get eaten by bigger monsters, who spit out their cardboard remains and return them to the ecosystem.
You’ve got to make sure the big scary monsters are properly fed. When you tap the screen, a bomb explodes under your fingers and sends the little monsters flying. If a little monster matches the color of the mouth it falls into, you get an extra bomb. To get through each level, feed all the little monsters to the big monsters without running out of bombs.
Bombs come in two flavors: black permanent bombs and purple temp bombs. The permanent bombs regenerate every level — you always start with three, and you can earn more by matching colors. The temp bombs are only usable once. Run out, and you’ll need to buy more. If you’re feeling flush, you can buy them in IAP packs with real money. Otherwise, you can earn them with hard work and good performance.
Each level you complete ranks you on your performance — how many matches you made, how many bombs are left, and so on. Your score translates to monster dollars, which you can spend on buying more temp bombs. Do particularly well on a level and you’ll be awarded the status of Master Muncher for that level, which also gives you a ton of extra monster dollars.
This isn’t a perfect system. If you do poorly, you’ll need to use more temp bombs, and you’ll be earning fewer monster dollars, so it will be harder to buy more. And of course if you do well, you’ll be wealthy in monster dollars but won’t really need temp bombs. But by and large, it works well. You can certainly get by without buying IAP even if it means going back and grinding old levels, and the restriction on temp bombs is a great motivation to do the best you can every time. It becomes very important to make sure you’re matching colors once per move to get the extra bombs, which adds a bit of strategy to an otherwise chaotic game.
Paper Munchers has 5 worlds, each with 15 levels. The level design generally offers a challenge without getting in the way. The levels themselves are static, so the challenge is in getting around the walls and platforms that keep you from feeding the monsters. The bomb physics are great, so success is just a matter of tapping the right spots at the right time. It all works very well. 35 Game Center achievements round things out, and the challenge of earning Master Muncher scores will keep you coming back.
The art style is what drew me to the game, and it looks as good as I could have hoped. The whole thing has a layered paper craft aesthetic that’s simply adorable. Everything looks hand-made: the backdrops, the monsters, the levels and even most of the interface elements. The sound does a great job too, with the whimpers of the tiny monsters making me feel guilty for sending them to their gruesome deaths. Not quite guilty enough to stop playing, though.