Game: “Paper Cut Mansion”
What could be worse than the fear of having to investigate a creepy mansion all on your own in the dark? How about the fear of a dreaded paper cut or two along the way? Well, dig out your notebooks and stock up on the plasters, because we’re delving into the weird and crafty world of Paper Cut Mansion!
At A Glance
|Positives||+ Unique and quirky graphics |
+ Fun puzzle mechanics
+ Charming sound design
|Negatives||– No engaging story or game lore |
– Combat is simplistic
– All puzzles and levels become quickly repetitive
|Price (When Reviewed)||£15.99|
|Our Playtime||2 hours 20 mins|
|Available On||PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC|
Picture the scene: it’s the dead of night, a car breaks down in the middle of dense forest; a lone figure emerges and picks their way through the trees, only to stumble across a decrepit old mansion standing imposing and isolated in the middle of the woods. They have no idea where they are, or even how they got there – all they know is that they must enter this mansion and solve the dastardly mysteries within… sounds like every horror game trope ever created, right? Okay, what if I told you that the entire world was made out of cardboard? Suddenly not so trope-y, huh?
Developed by Space Lizard Studio and published by Thunderful Publishing, Paper Cut Mansion is a roguelite horror set in a visually beautiful arts and crafts world.
Right off the bat, I was just so enamoured with the visuals. Sure, we’ve all seen procedurally generated roguelike games before, and being ‘lost in the dark woods alone, stumbling across a random derelict building’ has been done to death, but what Paper Cut Mansion boasts that other entries cannot is the unique cardboard graphics. After so many years playing games, it’s always nice to see developers step away from the norm and create something more imaginative. With mo-cap and next-gen graphics, we are now spoiled with character models looking like real actors in TV shows, but sometimes it’s nice to feel like you’re playing a game, and Paper Cut Mansion does a wonderful job of with its papercraft aesthetic. I was getting major Don’t Starve vibes as I sank my teeth into the entrée of the show, stumbling through the desolate forest with nothing but my wits and a torch to light my way. Upon finding the mansion, the player is treated to the most charming little intro song, made exclusively for the game, and thus the adventure begins.
For the main course, you find yourself navigating a spooky procedurally generated interior as Toby, a detective on a mission to unveil the mysteries of the very mansion he now finds himself trapped within. Once inside, you are greeted with a skeleton in the corner, seemingly there to offer some friendly, otherworldly advice before you begin your journey. The fact that he appears to have the exact same haircut as your character? Well, we’re not going to look too hard into that… You have a little moth companion that follows you around, cluing the player into rooms that have narrative driven items hidden within, so there’s no real fear of getting lost or running endlessly around in circles which is helpful – because one thing you will find out fairly quickly is that Paper Cut Mansion is not always easy to navigate.
The other novel mechanic that Paper Cut Mansion employs well is its use of dimension hopping. After all the hype with the MCU movies, who doesn’t fancy jumping into the multiverse?! Nerding out aside… the stratagem of stepping through different portals to find or complete new missions is quite fun and refreshing, and each of the three dimensions in the game has its own unique properties. With every dimension having its own set of rules, it keeps the gameplay from getting too stale. The Neo Cortex is the most ‘normal’ looking dimension, and is where the player will attempt to solve the game’s many quirky puzzles. The Limbic System has a snowy aesthetic and is survival based, where you will gradually build up a negative freeze effect that can be lethal if you can’t find a source of warmth or a way out. The third dimension is the Reptilian Cortex, a combat system where you can test your mettle against droves of enemies and build up your coin supply – handy for upgrades and outside help, but only if you live to tell the tale!
There are a few NPCs that become familiar faces as they crop up on every level, you can interact with them and they will offer you items to help aid your journey in exchange for any coins that you find along the way. As Paper Cut Mansion is a roguelite and incorporates permadeath, I advise grabbing a health boost or two from the bewitching plague doctor when you see him – you never know when your luck is about to run out! Other NPCs include those that give you side missions, which in my opinion are well worth seeking out as because they will reward you with upgrades that come in handy when trying to outfox foes, or just stay alive. These upgrades permanently boost one of four character attributes, including wits and damage output. None of the side quests are particularly difficult, and even though they require you to jump between dimensions, chances are you’re headed in that direction to further the story anyway, so why not kill two cardboard birds with one balled up piece of paper?
The combat system in Paper Cut Mansion is pretty straight forward; point and shoot. There’s really not much more to it than that. The gun you pick up upon first entering the Reptilian Cortex has an auto-lock feature when you aim with it, and so long as you’re close enough to the intended target it’s practically impossible to miss. You can also pick up an array of cards as you journey through the mansion and these will give you all sorts of bonuses, from extra weapons to stat boosts, or even companions to help you fight, so it’s definitely worth having a good snoop around to see what you can find.
Okay, now that we’ve talked about where Paper Cut Mansion was a cut above, let’s explore where it fell flat. (All puns intended.)
The game has its fair share of jump scares, but they are pretty gimmicky. The different levels are aesthetically distinctive (the second floor was job-oriented with mop buckets and such laying about, the third reminiscent of a classroom with chairs and desks to navigate around etc.) but as for the level layout, it’s pretty much the same. With nothing outstanding that can be used as a kind of landmark or to help orient yourself, it can be easy to get yourself all turned around – a nightmare when trying to find an NPC to hand ia side mission in to, or when trying to outmanoeuvre an irritable and unrelenting ghost.
Yes, Paper Cut Mansion has combat, but I use the term rather loosely. The fighting is not hard, the enemies are many and samey, and honestly there is no real danger of succumbing to much harm – unless you’re unlucky enough to get stuck on the multitude of clutter scattered on every floor. When I first started playing, I was genuinely nervous about entering the Reptilian Cortex. What if I die and lose all my coins and have to start over again? But I quickly learned that there was little to fear; I wasn’t going to lose against the simplistic AI. If nothing else, the enemies make good fodder to farm for coins.
Now, I love a good story, whether it’s a novel, a movie, or a game. I feel it is an integral piece when trying to immerse the audience into the world and the characters… and unfortunately I feel that Paper Cut Mansion comes across a little stiff. If the character had just a little more depth, instead of acting solely as a puppet used to progress the game, then he could have felt more relatable. If the story had been a little more engaging, with twists and turns or emotional investment, the replayability could have warranted further playthroughs to unlock the many alternate endings. As it stands though, I found I didn’t gel well enough with the character or the world to want to go through everything again and again from scratch.
Paper Cut Mansion is a quirky and fun little indie to play when you have an hour or two kicking about and you don’t want to exhaust your brain with anything too taxing. While it has a lot of positives going for it, like cute little puzzles, peculiar characters and buckets of charm, it fails to deliver any substance to go with it. The puzzles are not hard, the story isn’t captivating, and the tedious repetition makes it somewhat of a chore to pick up again. For me, it doesn’t maximise that full potential to make me want to come back for more.
In the interest of full disclosure, VGamingNews was provided with a copy of the game in order to conduct this review.