Genre: Adventure, Casual, Indie, Point and Click, Atmospheric, Stylized, Relaxing
System: Switch (also available for GOG and Steam for Windows and Mac)
Developer|Publisher: Petums | FEARDEMIC
Age Rating: US E 10+ | EU 7+
Price: US $9.99 | UK £8.99 | EU € 9,99
Release Date: December 1st, 2022
Review code provided with many thanks to FEARDEMIC
Papetura is an adventure game completely made out of paper. Each detail of the game is lovingly rendered in real paper as players walk through this weird little world solving puzzles.
The Story and Gameplay of Papetura
We play as a tiny paper person. He is tasked with taking down the bad guy, a shadowy figure who wants to set the paper world on fire. This minimalistic game is told through mostly pictures; there are no words to follow. Our little paper man needs to solve a whole bunch of puzzles with the help of little paper friends (and not-so-friendly NPCs) to save the world from fire.
The controls of Papetura are very simple. You can move, interact with objects, and use a held object. That’s about it. There is also a dedicated button for hints.
So while you are walking, poking, firing cats and cocoons, and pondering the paper world, Papetura throws a whole selection of very strange puzzles at you.
I Am The Paper Tiger
I love puzzle games; I love things that remind me of Neverhood (an old Claymation game for PC from 1996), and this game was both, I thought it would be a shoo-in for a new favourite title. Unfortunately, the game just barely gives you the tools to survive in this very violent and dangerous world, and the constant dying and getting lost made some of the magic of Papetura fade away.
The main character moves at the pace of molasses, which isn’t inherently bad. But there is something about being caught on an esoteric puzzle for whole minutes while simultaneously having to move at the speed of snails that frustrates me.
You have to save the world with this little paper man, and it seems like he’s having a panic attack the entire time. I mean, fair, I guess. Any normal person put in that kind of situation would most likely be panicking the whole time. But if it’s freaked out, you think he’d at least pick up the pace a little.
I Love This Game, But I Also Hate This Game
Papetura is simultaneously the most beautiful and unique game I’ve played in a long time, while also being the most annoying and challenging puzzle game I’ve played in a while. The world doesn’t make threats super obvious, so I wasted a lot of time trying to avoid things that wouldn’t hurt me while dying for things that didn’t immediately look threatening.
Color theory is a big deal for a reason; video game players and moviegoers can take one look at the lighting or the coloring of a scene and know at a glance what the mode is supposed to be. Mixed with music or sound design, color theory is one of the best means of communicating with a video game player in an instant.
Single-hue Color Pallet
Because of Papetura‘s self-imposed single-hue color pallet, the developers are at an immediate disadvantage when trying to communicate information to the player. This coupled with a minimalist design and picture-only communication system, this game gets muddied up very fast.
While the devotion to minimal design makes sense for this kind of title, completely avoiding the use of words in the game seems to be to its detriment. It’s the same complaint I make about similar game titles that refuse text like Time on Frog Island; it’s cute until you can’t understand what you’re supposed to do next.
The world is so cool, and the graphics absolutely stunning and wonderful. And it is all juxtaposed with some of the most frustrating puzzles I’ve ever encountered.
In one particular puzzle, your little paper man is carrying a cat/gun that shoots little balls out of its mouth? Ears? Face? Head? Don’t ask; the whole world is weird like this. The balls only last a few seconds before they dissolve. There is a gorgeously made room in the void made of swirled paper, and you need to shoot the little balls into a ladder to weigh it down so you can climb it.
While this puzzle might be easier on a PC with a mouse, with the Joy-Cons, it was extremely annoying. By the time I would get the shot lined up with my cat/gun, fire the ball into the basket, turn to fire again, and then adjust to hit the third basket, the first ball had less than a second on it before it disappeared. It was so annoying that I was yelling at the TV like I was watching a live sporting event.
Some of the answers to Papetura‘s puzzles were so weird that I would never have guessed it in a million years without the help of the game’s beefy hinting system. In order to get a hint for the puzzle you are currently on, players need to just press X.
This brings up a little picture that gives players a hint as to what they should interact with first.
If you still can’t figure it out based on the simple picture, then you can play a little game. You have to collect all the white flies while avoiding the red stars and bugs that come after your little bug man. If you succeed, then Papetura will provide you with a much more in-depth hint.
I had to get hints for several of the puzzles I played. Sometimes the hints weren’t as helpful as I wanted them to be. In one puzzle, there is a water monster that you have to knock out by smashing him on the head with a falling flower, but how to do this isn’t really clear. I got past this part, somehow, but I could not tell you how I did it. I kept hitting the monster in the same place, but it worked only one of the three times I tried it, and I cannot for the life of me tell you why.
Making a monochromatic minimalist puzzle game isn’t easy. It’s not something I would recommend most people try, and Papetura is a good example of why. I love so much about this game that I wanted to love it. I wanted to have fun inside this amazing world with gorgeous music and strange little puzzles, but I just can’t.
If only all the puzzles were a little more intuitive. If only some switches didn’t change things in other rooms, if only you didn’t have to backtrack through the world at a snail’s pace all the time, Papetura could have been a contender for my personal GOTY. It’s fun, it’s frustrating, it’s beautiful, but it’s just a little bit off-kilter.
Final Verdict: I Like it.