As an origami figure brought to life, this simple 2.5D puzzle plat-former has tons of heart and it’s obvious that OpenHouseGames has a lot of pride in this title. From the first five minutes of playing, I wanted to love this game, I truly did. However, there were several, huge, factors that left a sour taste in my mouth and not enough positive ones to balance it out.
A Few Tricks Up His Sleeves…Just a Few
After awakening on a dusty bedroom floor, in an empty house, the adventure kicks off without much of an introduction. We are given control of a small origami figure and not given much other guidance. Moving around the room reveals the path rather quickly and the environments are used in a clever way to run you through the basic premise and expectations, with crude diagrams scribbled onto sheets of paper. These, along with tiny mushrooms that illuminate once you get close, serve as your guiding beacons along the way, as well as serving as nifty ways to brighten up the darker areas further on in the game.
The hook for this title is the ability of your little origami figure to change shape and turn into several other forms that all serve to complete the numerous puzzles along the way. All of these puzzles come in the form of your typical platformer; positioning elevators to the proper elevation, lowering water levels to open the next path, etc. None of these are new to the genre, but the addition of using several different forms helps keep it somewhat fresh. At times, these forms have to be changed back in forth in quick succession. All of these forms have their pros and cons. For example, the first form learned, is that of the mighty frog. The ability to jump much farther comes at the cost of not being able to take individual steps. There are several forms, and each comes with a pretty big trade off to prevent overuse and abuse. Each form is well implemented and the level, as well as puzzle, design compliments each one.
Once you have progressed past the first few areas, the first enemy appears. I chuckled to myself when I saw that this enemy was a demonized Roomba that chases you around the room without reprieve. Enemies in this game are relatively scarce and there isn’t much in the area of diversity. There are only a few and, since there is no combat, there are no actual boss fights. The closest thing would be a small section that is heavily based on the chase levels from the Crash Bandicoot series…and I mean heavily. I will say that this section, as well as a few others, do a decent job of ratcheting up the tension. Other than these, the main enemies in the game are in the controls and the forced camera.
Scissors Beats Paper
One thing I noticed right from the beginning, was the inability to make minor movements. There are a few jumps in the game that require you to get relatively close to the edge of the platform. Moving your character on screen means shifting the analog stick, almost fully to one side or the other. Moving the analog stick slightly in one direction will only sometimes allow you to adjust on screen. There were several deaths that could’ve easily been avoided with tighter controls. However, since death isn’t much of a punishment in A Tale of Paper, this is a relatively minor complaint.
If you pair the controls with the fixed camera, this makes it incredibly difficult in areas to see the path of traversal. If you’ve played any 2.5/3D platformer over the last five years or so, you’ve probably seen this issue before. Looking at the level horizontally, at a 90 degree angle instead of at an elevated angle, creates blind spots due to the lack of depth perception. Luckily, in some areas, OpenHouseGames sought to make some of the narrow paths somewhat magnetic to make it harder to miss. This doesn’t seem to be the case for all of the pathways however.
Another small item was how repetitive the puzzles can be. The same formula is used over and over again. Turn on elevator and race up stairs in time to use elevator as jump platform to next area, adjust water valves to raise/lower the water in the next area, turn into new shape to complete obstacle, etc. Each puzzle was very simple and acted more as padding to fill out the game time. Though, I am not saying there was no fun to be had with any of these areas or the puzzles nearby; I honestly enjoyed every one of them.
However, my enjoyment was short lived when the credits started to roll about 50 minutes after I started playing. Luckily I sat and watched for a few additional moments and was pleasantly surprised that the game play started up again. This was a new area, although familiar, with a new character and all of my abilities had been stripped away. I was half relieved that there was more to play and half irritated that I was starting from scratch. This lasted for another 20 minutes before the final set of credits rolled. Needless to say I was fairly disappointed that a $15 purchase would only last for an hour and a half and have little to no replayability.
I would’ve been able to move past this, I thought, if only there had been a little more meat to the almost nonexistent story that’s presented during the short campaign. After the final credits rolled, I returned to the main menu and checked the newly opened extras menu option and that’s when I found the story. Throughout the game there are a handful of collectibles, but what the game doesn’t tell you, or at least tell you clearly, is that each collectible unlocks a portion of the backstory that can be seen in the extras menu. Granted, there is a chapter select so going back to get anything that you missed would take less than 30 minutes, but I believe I would’ve enjoyed the story aspect much better if I had been able to experience it as I went through it. I will give A Tale of Paper this, for the small moments of narrative we are given during the story pack quite a punch. There is a surprising amount of emotion packed into each small moment.
A Score to Beat
One area that A Tale of Paper does in excel in is with it’s score. The first major platforming section shows up within about ten minutes of the opening. At the bottom, the music starts softly and slowly builds to it’s peak as you reach the top. I was blown away by how well the score matched each of my character’s steps. In many other areas, the score becomes ethereal and in later levels fits the tone and art design as perfectly as I’ve seen.
A Small Payoff
All in all A Tale of Paper isn’t a bad game. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t give itself enough time for the negatives to get drowned out by the positives. Small items such as the fixed camera, loose controls, and forcing the collection of items to reveal the main story, really stand tall when there’s nothing on the opposite end of the spectrum to contrast with. If it had it given itself another hour or so, I would’ve easily given it an 8. However, at 90 minutes and no reason to replay it, I would wait for this to be on sale before picking it up unless you are a sucker for these types of platformers. However, if you honestly can’t resist this genre, you probably won’t be disappointed here.