Day 101: Paper Sky

Posted: 2011/02/18 in Indie Games

I’m purchasing an Xbox Live Indie Game every day, seeking out the quality titles that got lost in the shuffle and no longer appear in the top 50 downloads. Today is day #101, and today’s game is “Paper Sky”.

Looking for the hidden gems in the XBL Indie Games channel doesn’t always means finding games from 2008 (when the service launched), 2009 (when it started to really pick up speed), and 2010 (when Indie Games really hit their stride). No, sometimes something released a few weeks ago already doesn’t seem to be getting the attention it deserves. Such appears to be the case of a wonderful game I played, and bought, today: Paper Sky.

I’m surprised my buddy Kobun hasn’t reviewed this yet, it seems right up his alley. It’s a horizontally scrolling shoot-’em-up (or “shmup”, if you prefer) with a normal amount of enemy shots to dodge during the main levels but bosses that use “bullet hell” to try and destroy you. The most striking difference between it and classics like Gradius (arcade) and Delta (Commodore 64), or more recent entries like Aegis Wing, is a graphical aesthetic that is inspired by paper airplanes, and the kinds of doodles you might see in a grade school student’s notebook.

Of course there’s more to Paper Sky than just a funky art style (though the art is done very, very well). The power-ups have things both familiar to me, such as leveling up the number of shots you can fire, and unfamiliar to me, such as the fact that all power-ups have a limited amount of ammo. That latter point adds a bit of depth to the game, forcing you to actually consider whether the best strategy is to hold down the fire button through the whole game, not a decision that most shmups force you to face.

Some of the normal upgrades are here, like the ability to create a squadron of smaller paper airplanes flying as your wingmates, doubling your shot, giving you shots that fire off at 45 degree angles, and a super-blast that you can charge up and fire under the right circumstances. It’s worth noting that your paper airplane isn’t destroyed at the slightest glancing blow; each hit reduces your health significantly, but then it starts to slowly… and I do mean slowly… climb back up again, so don’t treat it as some kind of shield.

The game never forgets that it’s taking place in a world fit for paper airplanes. Plastic paratroopers holding bottle rockets fall from the top of the screen trying to kill you. Crumpled papers litter and the other detritus of school life have a presence, and the rest of the art looks like it could have been doodled by a Junior High school student (or Middle School student, as they seem to want to call it these days, at least where I live).

With tight controls, a very attractive and unique art style, and a great price (80 Microsoft Points), Paper Sky is one not to miss.

Tried this already? Vote below. About to download it? Please come back and vote after trying it.

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  1. Due to popular demand, I’m experimenting with a user review system for the site (see the article above, now updated with the user review feedback poll). If you try either the demo or the full version for Paper Sky, please come back and rate it. And leave a comment letting me know if you would like this as a regular feature of all game reviews.

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