Paper Cut Mansion Review
I’ve gotta be honest, after playing video games for the past 20-odd years, I’m starting to get bored of the medium. Almost every game I’ve played recently has given me a bad sense of deja vu. While, for example, Return to Monkey Island was great, I couldn’t help but feel like I’d played it before in a previous life. The same was true for World War 3, A Tale of Paper: Refolded and even the stellar Starship Troopers: Terran Command. But after spending some time this weekend playing Paper Cut Mansion, I’m starting to remember why I got into this hobby, because it’s definitely the weirdest, and one of the more fun, games to release this year.
Well, technically, that’s not exactly true. At its core, Paper Cut Mansion is little more than a quasi-formulaic roguelite dungeon crawler. Like its title doesn’t suggest, you take control of a paper rendition of Groot who travels to a mysterious mansion for one reason or another. When you become trapped there, your goal is, obviously, to escape while trying to figure out why everything is so spooky by solving puzzles, navigating mazey environments and combating papery baddies.
The catch, and what makes the title a lot more interesting than this year’s other paper-based puzzler, is that the gameplay has a lot of catches. While the base of the title is akin to Going Under, as you need to make your way through diverse environments until you finally collect enough clues and powerups to beat the title without dying, the specifics of it are a lot more interesting. For example, whereas in a traditional 2.5D dungeon-em-up the combat evolves with new enemies and whatnot, in Paper Cut Mansion you frequently need to travel to other dimensions within the mansion to navigate the game through to completion.
It also has a genuinely interesting story. It’s not exactly War and Peace, but without spoiling anything, it’s also not exactly Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War. Ultimately, it’s somewhat akin to the original horror/adventure games of the early ‘00s, and there are enough twists and turns to make it worth powering through the title’s strange gameplay and straightforward puzzling. Your character, too, develops into something more than a cardboard cutout over the game’s skill-dependent runtime, and it’s worth dealing with the game’s literal and figurative paper dragons as long as you can to see how everything turns out.
Gameplay aside, though, what makes Paper Cut Mansion a remarkably weird title is its graphics. In 2022, it seems pointless to talk about a title’s technical aspects (even though I do in every review), but in this game it’s actually noteworthy. The graphics are — obviously — strange to say the least, but that strangeness is remarkably well done because it often means there are jump scares and tension in what would otherwise be a clean-cut logic-based puzzler with some light combat elements. It’s one of the few titles in recent memory that does that, and seeing as visuals are passively important in a medium that’d otherwise be obsolete given that books exist, it improves the hell out of the overall experience.
The same can be said for Paper Cut Mansion’s audio. Again, it seems stupid to fill my limited word count by talking about music, but in this specific circumstance, it’s anything but. The tunes that fill your ears as you progress through a story that goes from weird to freaky are genuinely great, and like the visuals, they actually add to the gameplay while sounding good enough to make it onto my spooky season playlist on Spotify.
And, when those tunes are combined with the game’s great graphics and passively innovative 2.5D logic puzzles, trans-dimensional traversing and freaky fighting, Paper Cut Mansion is a pretty great game. In a medium that’s jam-packed with generic and derivative titles, this one, well, isn’t. It uses its visuals to enhance its gameplay, the gameplay itself is solid on its own, and the spooky but strangely familiar story is well worth the figurative paper it's printed on. The title’s animations aren’t great, and at its core it’s still passively derivative of (insert your favourite roguelite here), but given how low the bar is for one-off indie games these days, Paper Cut Mansion is one of the better ones to release in recent memory.
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