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Paper Trail Review: A Game Worth Unfolding?

Platform: PC (Steam, version reviewed), Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo Switch
Genre: Puzzle, Indie, Atmospheric

As soon as I saw the aesthetic of Newfangled Games’ puzzle game Paper Trail, I was hyped to get into it. Little did I know my brain was about to be beat into a pulp with the game’s plethora of tricky mind-benders & gray matter teasers.

Paper Trail stars Paige (heh), a gifted academic who has a strange gift… She can fold the world like a paper! Paige lives in the most whimsical town with people who speak the most adorable nonsensical gibberish. Her story is one we all know well. Someone trying to get away from their overbearing parents, but for a different reason, she wants to attend university and her parents are against it (definitely not Asian parents!).

UNFOLDING THE GAMEPLAY

I can’t tell you enough how many times I wanted to just Alt+F4, but don’t take this the wrong way. As I’ve mentioned multiple times in the past, puzzle games are just not my thing. What started as a “This is a relaxing narrative puzzle game’ for me turned into a puzzle nightmare that almost had me crying out of frustration.

The paper is the core of Paper Trail. Each screen is like a sheet of paper with a front and back. You can walk on any space that is walkable and fold the page from any side or corner, as long as Paige isn’t in the way. By folding the paper to overlap the back and front, it creates new paths, reveals hidden secrets, completes ritual circles to open doors, and finds quirky cute collectables. Sounds simple, right? But here’s where it gets tricky. You have to decide where and how far to fold. Most puzzles will need multiple folds or a series of folding and unfolding moves. 

The puzzles start out pretty simple, but then as you progress it gets harder and more tedious. Complete a puzzle, and you’re rewarded with a more tedious one. Some puzzles had me appreciating its cleverly designed level, but most made the game feel a bit oppressive, especially to someone who isn’t a puzzle enthusiast. Over time, more mechanics are introduced, like locked doors, keys, boulders to push onto switches, and the circles mentioned earlier. Each challenge will need a different folding approach based on what’s on the other side while keeping track of where Paige is standing, as it affects how you move both her and the paper. 

HINTS FOR DAYS

Don’t worry if you are stuck, the game provides you with a Hint button. I have mixed feelings about the Hint button, because I really had no self-control, and kept using it after getting frustrated for awhile, but hey, that’s why it’s there, right? The hint button would provide step-by-step folding instructions, and this is why I see this as a problem. When solving puzzles, you want to have a sense of achievement when you finally get it, but it is hard when you rely on the Hint button. I resisted as much as I could, but when the puzzles kept getting more tedious, my self-control would fall apart. 

For the hardcore puzzle enthusiasts, this may seem a tad bit unfair, but that’s where the lovely origami comes in! Scattered throughout each environment are origami shapes to collect. It would require unique folding patterns for you to reach these little collectables. Now the hint button would help you get through the level, but it will not help you get to the origami. Personally, this seems like a good balance between the casuals (like me!) and the hardcore puzzlers. 

WHIMSICAL WONDER

Just like many other Indie games, Paper Trail follows a minimalistic art style that leaves you enchanted, almost as if you are inside a magical storybook. The aesthetics and even the sound design are both charming and honestly enhance the story and showcase the paper-folding mechanics well. 

It’s hard to stay frustrated at a game with such beautiful art. It isn’t just the whimsical design but it’s all in the details itself. The colour and lighting truly make every scene an enchanting one. 

FLIP THE PAGES

Honestly, it would be a shame to miss out on such a delightfully frustrating game, even if you aren’t into puzzle games. I have to say though, if you are looking for a game to destress with, this isn’t the one. Paper Trail definitely stands out with its unique mechanics, setting it apart from similar games. Beginners may struggle, but that’s okay! I think the complexity is just right. The colourful visuals, silly sounds, genuine writing, and emotive music make the game more approachable for us casuals.

PROS:

  • Clever paper-folding mechanic.
  • A great hint system. (For the casuals!).
  • Beautifully designed.

CONS:

  • Not beginner-friendly.
  • Puzzles can get too tedious.
  • Basic narrative.

FINAL SCORE: 70/100

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