I’m pretty sure I know what “follow the cosmic butterfly” means. It involves a certain kind of mushrooms.

Veiled drug references aside, Paper Galaxy is a perfectly kid-safe iOS game. But it’s also as adult-safe as any well-made bit of casual frippery. You fire a little moon between planets by timing the moment it sneezes to leave orbit. The objective is to get as high as you can (get it?) before the evil crab nebula rises from below and swallows your moon. The cosmic butterfly thing is a suggested route for you to take. If you can hit the planets in that order, you’ll go faster, which gets you farther but makes it harder to nail the timing when you leave orbit. It’s a nifty self-correcting and moderately skill-based variation on just bouncing ever upward.

There are plenty of these “bounce ever upward” games where you try to reach a new height before . I suppose it’s a vertical variation on the endless runner. But what I like about Paper Galaxy is how it litters the screen with planets that have character. I don’t just mean they’re cute; some of them are functionally different. Comet, suns, gas giants, money planets, speed planets, and so forth. The progression system, which is based on the usual collectible coins and goals (and micropayment, if you’re so inclined), is that you’re not just leveling up your little moon. You’re also improving the galaxy by unlocking new types of helpful planets, improving how often they’ll occur, and even improving their functionality.

It’s worth noting Paper Galaxy was made by Liquid Entertainment, a studio with credits as diverse as the sadly underapprecaited RTS Dragonshard, a Desperate Wives tie-in, and a pretty good Greek God of War style RPG called Rise of the Argonauts. It’s always nice to see a familiar name on the splash screen in front of a cute diversion like this.

3 stars
iOS