Paper Trail Review – Crumpled Edges

Paper Trail Review - Crumpled Edges

Paper Trail is a puzzle game that looks like it comes directly from a children’s book. The graphics are heavily inspired by flat forms of art such as printing and watercolours. I find it reminds me of illustrative story books from my childhood and as the game’s narrative includes Paige’s childhood, it feels fitting. The aesthetic matches the folding mechanic, working together as players try to understand the puzzles before them. With no time limits, it’s best to take time to appreciate not just the ingenuity of the puzzles presented, but the lovely atmosphere the game brings.   

Paper trail follows the story of a young woman named Paige who has been accepted into university. To her dismay, her overbearing parents refuse to let her go, wanting her to stay at home with them. At first this may seem unfair, but as the story continues it becomes obvious their overprotectiveness isn’t without reason. Paige has a dream though and she’s not going to let her parents’ fears hold her back. While they are sleeping, she sneaks out and sets off on a journey to attend university. 

Paige’s voyage starts off in her hometown where the main mechanic of folding paper to solve puzzles is introduced. Paige can only walk on solid ground or stairs. She cannot jump so when she reaches a dead end, part of the stage needs to be folded to create a path for Paige to traverse. There are eight different locations that Paige must get through to reach her destination. In each zone, a new mechanic is introduced to increase the challenge of the puzzles. These mechanics will occasionally make an appearance in other zones or may evolve. A great example is the cave area after the tutorial which adds the boulders that can be pushed mechanic. In later levels, the boulders become statues and then the statues are given shields that can reflect light. It showcases the simplicity of the paper folding mechanic while illustrating how complex the solutions may be. The paper stage can be folded horizontally, vertically or diagonally. It’s up to the player to decide how much they want to fold the paper stage but there are rules.

Players cannot fold paper on to or over Paige. One stage can be folded multiple times providing the pieces don’t overlap. The stage paper cannot be folded beyond heavy items. If a heavy item is on the folded section of paper, it cannot be moved back. Generally, if there is a foreign item (such as a statue, platform or boulder) on the paper, it’ll apply a restriction. This means that the placement of Paige is just as important to the puzzle as how the stage is folded. The beauty of this is that Newfangled Games implemented a hint system that shows the player how they need to fold the paper to solve the puzzle, but not the placement of Paige nor the foreign items. Players need to use their grey matter to completely figure out the puzzle and hopefully admire its artistry when it comes to its conclusion.   

When I was playing Paper Trail, I found that I was becoming easily frustrated and rather than feeling the elation of having figured things out, I was angry that the solution was obvious after it was exposed. This wasn’t an issue with the game, but rather how I approached it. I tried again the next day, choosing to play slowly rather than trying to brute force my way through the puzzles. That is when I truly admired what Newfangled Games had created. Part of the fun is folding the paper stage in unexpected ways. I found as I continued to play, I was understanding how the puzzles seemed to work with their own unique spins on the folding mechanic without needing to use hints. I did need a few for the later stages, but I found I was no longer groaning frustratedly and instead exclaiming “Ah, of course!” at the solution. One of the downsides to reviewing games is that you don’t always get the luxury to take your time, and this is a massive disservice to Paper Trail.  

It is a lovely, heartfelt game that allows players to exercise their brains with interesting puzzles. The only complaint some may have is that it is a bit short at five hours long, but I think that it was the perfect length for this type of game. Something I did enjoy was that once I had finished the game, the extra level at the end was also the credits. I love it when games have interesting credit options as I loathe to skip them, but sometimes they’re just too long or boring to sit through.

Ultimately, Paper Trail is a great puzzle game, integrating common puzzle tropes to create a variety of varied and unique puzzles that always feel new and challenging but not impossible. Of course it’s not a perfect game, but it is an exceptional game if the puzzles end up tickling your fancy. Some may find it too slow or simplistic for their tastes but there’s nothing wrong with that. Paper Trail knows exactly what it is and isn’t afraid to announce it in black and white (with other colours too). 

Paper Trail Review Box

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