Paper Trail Review – Adventure Unfolds

Looking for a calming puzzle game to fill in little gaps of your time? Paper Trail, by Newfangled Games is a charming little puzzle game where you fold the world like paper to get to the other side. With many puzzling tricks up its sleeve, Paper Trail is a game you want to look out for if you’re a puzzle fan.

Paper Trail is about Paige, a girl in a small town, running away from her parents to attend university to become an astrophysicist, so secretly she can learn to better control her space and time altering powers. The story is very thin, and almost fluffily drawn out to make you eagerly complete the next section. Part of me wishes the story blended in with the world, like memories of Paige’s past blended with the next location. A way to perhaps make the locations more meaningful and give depth to the environment. A simple “My brother and I used to love coming into this village to pick pumpkins,” would’ve been nice to tell more about the world.

Paper Trail 1
While the story lacks substance, that’s not to say it isn’t wholesome and comforting.

Paper Trail is separated into roughly eight locations that each have their own theme. A new character or two is introduced in each location, with strangely a lot of the characters not wanting you to be there. The writing is quirky and jokingly unfriendly. A lot of “Ew, what are you doing here?” It starts to get old pretty quick when you realize none of what the NPCs are saying are that important. It’s not like what they say affects the outcome of what you are doing at all. Paper Trail would be more interesting if the characters ran around and bumped into objects, or if they accidentally ripped or folded parts of the world, but perhaps those themes should be left to Paper Mario.

Paper Trail is very close to Monument Valley, except with a world folding mechanic besides a perspective-altering mechanic. Both depict a young girl going on a journey, with small levels that are easy to digest. Paper Trail has a lot more levels and puzzles to complete, which is a big plus, and every level flows into the next without needing you to parse through a level selection screen. Both stories are ominous and use vague writing as a way to avoid having an actual story attached to it. A lot of the world pieces you interact with to progress are not explained. Why do the large statues block you from folding the paper? What’s the deal with the number tiles or lasers? The mood in both Paper Trail and Monument Valley also have the same minimalistically creepy audio that reverbs everywhere and makes the game feel hollow and flat.

Paper Trail 2
He’s talking about frogs… For Grandma’s frog tea.

In terms of the progression of difficulty, Paper Trail does a fair job of slowly introducing a new puzzle challenge to you while integrating old challenges that you’ve faced. The easy to difficulty factor ramps up like a mountain range, with short easy puzzle scenes separating hefty mind-bending puzzles. There are both environmental and object obstacles that get introduced in each level, with the paper being cut into unique shapes, then mirroring itself, and switches and statues introduced throughout. My favorite puzzles were the ones involving the lasers, possibly because humans have an innate attraction towards lasers, like in the puzzle games, The Talos Principle, and The Witness. Clean lines that reflect and bounce everywhere are pleasing to watch.

I hate to say this after Paper Trail introduces a steady progression of interesting mechanics, but… it gets boring. That is probably a personal opinion, but I’ll try to justify why some aspects of Paper Trail feel dull at times. For one: the story that breaks up the locations is tactless, but ultimately you can skip it, so it’s not that big of a hassle. I wonder if the problem is the small features that are missing from Paper Trail. A quick retract button that flips the paper back to its original state would be nice because currently there is a lot of excess movement that you have to do within each puzzle. Another problem (not necessarily a problem, but an irk) is that you can’t pull the paper past the player or statues to plan out what edges you need to match up. I understand that part of the puzzle is that the player and statues can’t be covered, but in terms of puzzle solving I need to plan out where I need to go. Having the pages be blocked makes for a more fiddly game. Paper Trail can get away with these little problems because the puzzles aren’t terribly difficult. While some feel like it’s going to be a lot of steps, paper has a determinate amount of sides, so there are so many choices you have available to begin with.

Paper Trail 3
The mirror folding mechanic is probably the coolest part of the game, albeit the most mind-bending one.

Paper Trail’s art and audio are truly top notch. The voice actor for the story scenes was great, and all the sounds of the world are satisfying, especially the jingling voices of the NPC’s. The background music is a touch too ambient for my taste, which adds to the monotony of the game. If the melody incorporated the location that you were in, I think it would make the game more engaging. The art of Paper Trail is a pleasant mix of hand drawn watercolor style that is soft and pleasing to look at. The interface is easy to understand, and even has your cursor change icons to indicate what clicking will do.

In summary: Interesting gameplay that ramps up in difficulty with beautiful art and peaceful music to match.

Jordan played Paper Trail on PC with a review code. 

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