Thoughts on Paper Trail (Steam Next Fest 2022 Demo)

If the numerous amount of posts about demos prior to this have shown, I fancy myself a puzzle-solver. Paper Trail was shown during the recent Wholesome Direct showcase and immediately enthused me with its concept. You must solve puzzles by moving the environment around like folds of paper. Discovering it would have a demo soon after, I eagerly downloaded it without hesitation! Perhaps I should have had some hesitation…

Quick structure disclaimer: Given this (and all the others) is only a demo, I won’t be too in-depth with my coverage, and will only reflect on the good and the bad. No overly long personal history or filibuster. No nonsense. That said, I will provide a synopsis for the game below.

Game Summary

Paper Trail is a top-down puzzle adventure about leaving home, set in a foldable, paper world.

Steam page

The Good

Not only is the use of foldable environments a captivating concept, it’s also used in a logical manner. What impressed me most was how one can comprehend the backside of a given portion of the map based on its front. If there’s a lot of surface on the front at a certain position, it will flip on the backside, leaving a trail of where it could’ve gone had it continued. Little details like this make navigating these puzzles a tad easier for those who pay careful attention.

The almost avant-garde art style is a good attractor, as well. Almost puppet-like, the characters and environments look like they belong in some ye olde fantasy picture book for youngins. Nice, dark shades of blue, pink, and white, highlighted when necessary by the illumination of ancient secrets and ambient lighting. Very easy to immerse oneself in when all else is going on.

Aren’t we all?

Beginning immediately, the start of the demo gives light visual guidance as to how the game will be played. What’s nice is that you’re never actively stopped by any arbitrary force; you simply see little arrows and lights informing the player of the integral aspects of puzzle-solving. Once a few rooms have been properly solved, the real adventure begins. That’s when things really pick up in complexity.

One may think that folding the environment is all there is to he game, with the player character simply a walking figure in the whole thing. The demo proves this to be untrue. After a while, things such as movable boulders and keys are mixed in to give each room more at stake to complete. Initially, trying to sort out the logistics of these new things proved a hassle, but persistence is key. They provide a natural progression of difficulty that makes the game more satisfying to solve.

The start of a long process.

The Bad

I sincerely hope you like puzzles, because Paper Trail adores them. Cannot seem to get enough of those puzzles. I say this because, after about forty minutes of demo (cut short by something I’ll explain later), I was still solving room after room of puzzles, consistently toughening its own rules. Eventually, the rooms became longer and thinner, or combining together. One area was simply five rooms all in one—a giant trial of all that you’ve learned.

Yes, this is a puzzle game. That’s the point. Even so, by the end of the demo, I was absolutely exhausted. These ancient ruins one explores early on seem to go on forever, with more and more challenges directly after another in quick succession. There’s no respite from it, no little buffer to let one catch their breath. Like a gauntlet of puzzles, one needs to prepare to use their brain consistently and thoroughly.

They’re eel-ly feeling it.

Said giant room of five-in-one ended up remaining unsolved for me… because the demo crashed. Perhaps to the game’s detriment, it ended up somewhat relieving. By that point, my brain was fried—constantly folding the room around for any answers, I was practically stuck and grasping at straws. Even still, a game crashing at any point is cause for concern, even if just once.

Conclusion

Definitely for puzzle enthusiasts at their core, it only trips itself up in balancing the act between favoring dialogue and movement over puzzles and shoving puzzles down your throat. (The latter.) It also crashed on me after staying in one room for too long, potentially due to the sheer number of environmental folds I was also expending. Even still, outside of the exhaustion, Paper Trail makes great use of its core concept and looks really nice. I’m going to go take a nap.

Paper Trail has a demo you can play now on Steam. (Link under “Game Summary.”)

If reading this compelled you to give me a dollar, feel free to tip me on Ko-fi.

Thank you for your time. Have a great timezone.

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