A Tale of Paper: Refolded Review

August 17, 2022
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Fail-per airplane

At some point, I think the gaming industry needs to have a serious discussion about the value of “artistic” titles. While playing through a Wes Anderson film in video game form is great every now and again, there’s only so many times you can hop around a cute level in a video game that lacks any real sustenance and enjoy it. This year has already seen the release of Onde and Stray, which means A Tale of Paper: Refolded is at least the third game of 2022 that’s attempting to win a BAFTA award. And, even though it’s not necessarily the worst attempt at a visual-driven adventure game, it’s so forgettable and formulaic that it’s hard to recommend it when it has much better competitors available. 

If you’ve already played a platformer with a strong emphasis on graphical storytelling this year, I’ll save you some time by getting this out of the way: A Tale of Paper: Refolded isn’t a bad puzzle platformer, but it’s also far from the best. It does very little to distinguish itself from the swarms of games like it, and despite its cool premise, there are so many minor problems with its gameplay that it’s impossible to recommend. Onde, a game that would’ve won a game of the year award if South of the Circle didn’t release recently, does everything that A Tale of Paper: Refolded better. And so, if you’re a fan of visual games with “interpretive” stories, just play that.

One small step for mankind, one more annoying bloody death for me.

If you don’t want to, or haven’t played any artsy games lately, however, A Tale of Paper: Refolded is still a tough sell. At its core, it’s a platformer that puts a heavy emphasis on visual storytelling. You take control of a piece of paper that needs to make its way through a handful of beautifully designed environments by jumping around obstacles and running from evil Roombas. You can transform into a paper airplane, a frog and a ball of paper to make navigation easier, there’s a decent enough variety in its levels, and the game never overstays its welcome because of its short runtime.

And while the overall concept of A Tale of Paper: Refolded (or the original A Tale of Paper, presumably) isn’t bad, the problem is that it’s so derivative that it’s hard to get invested in it. The tale the game tells, for example, is entirely based on the progression of the game’s environments that follow the traditional formula of starting in a room, then moving through some sewers before eventually ending on one of the tallest buildings. There is an additional handful of formulaic levels after the credits roll that were added in the Refolded edition of the title, but both these sequences and the generic jumping sections that are effectively the extent of the title’s gameplay suffer from the same issues as the narrative. 

This is makes it hard to actually care about anything that’s going on in A Tale of Paper: Refolded, which is a problem that’s compounded by the fact that the gameplay is occasionally more difficult than it should be. During many of the title's limited number of levels, you can be killed by simply stepping one or two inches off the path you’re supposed to stay on, which means a large portion of of the game’s already limited number of gameplay sequences turn into tedious trial-and-error gameplay. With the help of a guide, it’s often easy to figure out what path you should take, but any game — especially seemingly simple ones like A Tale of Paper — that require a guide to get through aren’t, well, deserving of any BAFTA awards.

I’m on a roll!

Admittedly, the game probably could win some awards for its technical aspects, however. While the game isn’t always the best looking title to grace monitors this year, it’s still a decidedly good looking one that has a good soundtrack to boot. These two things, more than the gameplay, do help you get immersed in the experience a tad, even when the plenty of aforementioned things draw you out. 

But, at the end of the day, A Tale of Paper: Refolded’s problems can’t be solved with technical polish. While the title isn’t bad, even if its gameplay is at times is frustrating, it does literally nothing to distinguish itself from the swarms of other games like it. Most of those games have longer runtimes, better gameplay and more interesting stories, too, so unless you’re hell-bent on playing another game that’s whatever the video game equivalent of knock-off Oscar bait is, A Tale of Paper: Refolded is best left crumpled up in the recycling bin.

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A Tale of Paper: Refolded isn’t a bad game, but it doesn’t do anything that its competitors don’t, which makes the entire experience feel forgettable at best and like a moist piece of paper at worst.
Derek Johnson

Somebody once told me the world was going to roll me, and they were right. I love games that let me take good-looking screenshots and ones that make me depressed, so long as the game doesn't overstay its welcome.