Paper Trail – PS5 Review

Paper Trail comes to us from developer Newfangled Games who also self-published this origami-themed reality bending puzzle game. It’s also the second paper themed game we’ve had cross our threshold within a month. Perhaps they are the new zombie game? Though Paper Trail is a good deal more fleshed out than A Tale of Paper: Refolded in almost every regard.

You play as a young girl called Paige who enjoys keeping a journal, origami and bending the spacetime continuum. It’s a nice conceit for the gameplay that you’ll encounter from the off. Even in cutscenes, where you’re stealthily introduced to the main folding mechanic.

This is the main gameplay gimmick throughout Paper Trail and as they go, it’s a pretty good one. You start off in your parents’ house dreaming of a life beyond, ultimately aiming to go to university.  Rather than taking a more conventional approach by, say, catching a bus or train to get there, Paige decides to go it alone and make her way herself.

That said, a bus trip would be a bit boring, though a paper trail would still fit we suppose. You make your way through caves, a swamp and various other biomes on your quest. As you go you’ll be dripfed new traversal methods, initially starting with paths that can only be traversed by matching dice. You’ll only be able match them up by folding the scenery.

As you progress, you’ll discover other mechanics such as doors that match up when both are visible, a teleport of sorts. We’ll spare you the details of every other complication to movement. Let’s just say that there’s plenty of variation here.

You also have to find keys or move rocks onto switches to progress. The latter act as paperweights that stop paper being folded back until they’ve been moved off, it makes sense if you think about it.

As well as moving from one section to another by manipulating the landscape, each biome has collectibles to pick up in the form of little origami models. These are very much off the beaten track and often more difficult to reach than the exit to the next screen. There’s a speedrun trophy for completing Paper Trail inside four hours, we’d recommend you leave it for a fresh playthrough once you’re familiar with the game.

The characters in the game talk to you, they’re not voiced but sound a bit like the Swedish Chef from The Muppet Show, not quite bork bork bork, but not dissimilar. We found it endearing, though our kid found it annoying.

The puzzles ramp in difficulty as you go for the most part, but every so often you’ll find a puzzle that you wonder “is that it?” in terms of how perfunctory they feel. Though conversely, some levels can be chock full of tough puzzles. For that reason, we’d suggest you play Paper Trail in bite sized chunks, lest you get horribly stuck on occasion like we did.

One short level penned simply “Autumn” had us entirely baffled at the outset, yet was blindingly obvious when we revisited it the following day. It highlighted one slight problem with Paper Trail in that paths can sometimes be obscured by the fixed perspective. We spent ages on one fairly early puzzle before we realised that what looked like a solid statue was actually entirely possible to walk past without impediment.

It’s a rare outlier when this happens, but it does happen from time to time. Some of the origami collectibles can be tough to reach on first glance, especially when they’re on the flipside of a sheet. Sometimes you get so bogged down in trying to reach them, you won’t see the wood for the trees. It’s no bad thing, but sometimes the simplest answer is the best option as opposed to complex multiple folds.

You’ll occasionally come unstuck due to folding yourself into a corner or finding yourself on the wrong side of a teleport, though thankfully the restart level option only resets the current puzzle as opposed to the entire biome.

In conclusion, Paper Trail is a fine puzzle game with an origami mechanic that will delight and confound in equal measure. The puzzles are well thought out, to the extent that we suspect the devs spent a fair amount of time actually building the levels with physical models so as to refine their levels. The collectibles are well done too, we just wish they were more than simple images, instead showing you how to make the models in question, a bit like the papercraft models in Tearaway. Man, those were great.

Paper Trail
8 Overall
+ Exquisitely designed puzzles
+ Beautiful presentation
+ Clearly a labour of love
­- Sometimes you won’t see the wood for the trees
­- Occasional instances of getting completely stuck
­- Doesn’t lend itself to particularly long play sessions
Paper Trail is a fine puzzle game with a lovely origami mechanic that will delight and confound you in equal measure, especially if you’re looking to hoover up the collectibles as you go. Each level has the feeling that the developers expertly crafted the puzzles. On top of excellent presentation, this is a cut above.

About Ian

Ian likes his games weird. He loves his Vita even if Sony don't anymore. He joined the PS4 party relatively late, but has been in since day one on PS5.

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