Paper Trail Review – Origami Overload

Screenshot of Paper Trail
Screenshot of Paper Trail
Paper Trail – folds into itself (Newfangled Games)

The second paper folding themed video game of the week is a charming new indie puzzle game with some very clear ideas about virtual paper folding.

Since Dutch printmaker MC Escher showed the world the fun of playing with perspective, many video game designers have followed in his footsteps. Given the unique interactivity of the medium, it has become a key feature of many great games, especially puzzle games. The not-quite-classic Echochrome on the PSP, the mobile hit Monument Valley and its sequel, the first-person puzzle game Viewfinder and Fez have all used the concept to enjoyably confusing effect.

Paper Trail’s twist on the perspective-changing theme has you exploring a world drawn on paper, although it has nothing else in common with Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door. Instead, you help your devious protagonist Paige navigate the space around her by folding parts of each level. That creates new paths, eliminates obstacles and allows you to drag objects into otherwise inaccessible areas. While the mechanics work even better on a touchscreen, it doesn’t take long to get the hang of things with a controller.

With a shoulder button you grab a corner or edge, and with the right analog stick you bend it. At the start of the game each page is square or rectangular, for a total of only six corners and edges, but the complexity of the game comes from your ability to choose how far to drag each fold and determine the order in which you she makes. . Puzzles require multiple folds to find solutions, and you’ll often also roll boulders or push stone statues to activate floor switches.

You can hold another button to see what’s on the back of each page, which is handy because you’ll soon be dealing with three or four pages on one screen, and that’s before the game starts adding eccentrically shaped pieces of paper and levels spanning multiple screens. Although the first puzzles are simple, it won’t be long before you need to apply a little more concentration.

All that folding also creates cutscenes, framed as Paige reads from her diary, where your origami activates the next bit of plot exposition. You’ll also use it to complete patterns on floors, which in later levels expands to connecting pipe circuits, Pipe Mania style.

As you progress, Paper Trail adds rotating blocks and others you can slide – some of which let Paige ride on them, while others can only be moved unoccupied – and squares that resemble the faces of dice, whose number you must match an identical die when you fold the page. It’s actually quite useful, giving you insight into the size and direction of at least one of the folds you need to make.

That may all sound like a lot to take in, but it never feels like it. Your introduction to the new puzzle mechanics proves to be almost as benign as the art style, which is adorably cozy and looks like an animated Slavic folk painting. It may not appeal to everyone, but the rosy cheeked cuteness makes for a pleasant change from the usual horde of anime characters.

The only mildly annoying feature of the game is the conversations. While Paige’s journal entries are fully voiced, the other chat is text-only, accompanied by speech-like nonsense sounds similar to those in the early Rare games. Just like then, there’s something slightly irritating about them, even if it’s not enough to ruin the mood.

YouTube poster

The final piece of each level is an origami animal hidden on the back of the paper, always in a position that requires some extra thought and folding to achieve. It’s a nice touch that adds to both the challenge and longevity.

Speaking of challenge, while a bit of trial and error will get you through all the puzzles, if you get stuck, there’s a built-in hint system that won’t give away the entire game, but will at least show you what the wrinkle is. you need to make and in what order. Where you place Paige during the process and when you drag boulders, statues or rotating platforms is up to you, but it means you’ll never be unsettled for long.

There is no one-way crescendo in difficulty; the trickier levels are interspersed with more relaxed levels that typically involve brief interactions with villagers, egg poachers, and other unusual denizens of the game world. It’s not a long experience, taking no more than a few casual afternoons to complete, which is good because you get the sense that the core of the conceit could end up being a bit thin.

However, that doesn’t happen. Instead, it’s a soft and light delight that’s just taxing enough to be interesting and never runs out of new ideas to enhance the slightly surreal plot. Provided you don’t expect any of the mind-bending complexity of The Witness or The Talos Principle, you’ll be in for a pleasantly entertaining few hours.


Summary of the Paper Trail review

In brief: A charmingly illustrated, perspective-shifting paper folding puzzle game that has just enough complexity to keep you entertained without ever leaving you feeling stumped.

Pros: Interesting central mechanism that is used optimally, with simple operation and a lot of variation. Unusual art style and sensible layered hint system.

Cons: Not that taxing and fairly short. Mildly irritating speech-like sounds for text-only conversations.

Score: 7/10

Formats: PlayStation 5 (reviewed), Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox Series X/S, PC, iOS and Android
Price: £15.49
Developer: Newfangled Games
Publisher: Newfangled Games
Release date: May 21, 2024
Age rating: 3

Screenshot of Paper Trail
Paper Trail – a real page turner (Newfangled Games)

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