It’s Halloween once more and time for a spooky game review. Developer Space Lizard Studio and publisher Thunderful Games have a rather apt new game out just in time for the long dark nights and to help get you in the mood. But, is Paper Cut Mansion a worthy Halloween game with scares or is it just scarily bad?
Paper Cut Mansion is a roguelite horror set in a papercraft world. Play as Toby, a police detective arriving at a mysterious old mansion. Explore the mansion floor by floor as you seek to unravel the story behind this bizarre place, with each run giving you the opportunity to collect another piece of evidence to be added onto your Evidence Board. The Mansion also hosts a mysterious cast of characters who may help or hinder your progress on each run…
Now, I do have a weakness for a good roguelite, it is one of my favourite sub-genres of gaming, so this gets a big tick in the plus column before I even start. Paper Cut Mansion also gets bonus points for its art style. As the title may have clued you in (and the trailer definitely so), what you get here is a paper-cut-out aesthetic. Think, a children’s pop-up storybook and that is pretty much it. It looks great too with a mix of 2D paper cut-outs and 3D paper models.
With this being a roguelite, expect to die, a lot. As is the norm for this sub-genre, dying just helps you learn more of what to do and further you to the end of the game. How Paper Cut Mansion plays is an action-puzzle-detective ’em up. You have a mansion with multiple floors to explore, objects to search, clues to find and a variety of NPCs to meet. What gives this game a USP is the addition of three different dimensions to explore. Each floor of the mansion will have a gateway to those dimensions. When you go into a gate, the map layout remains the same, but the graphics change, as does the gameplay mechanics of each dimension.
You have the NeoCortex and this is the ‘standard’ dimension that you will start your journey in. Here, your focus will be on clue-finding and puzzle-solving. Then, there is the Reptilian Complex which is much more fiery-hellish in its presentation. Overrun with monsters, this one is much more action based and will have you using weapons to fight off a multitude of evil apparitions and demons. Finally, there is the Limbic System, which is the opposite of the previous dimension. Icy cold and you will freeze to death if you can’t find a place to warm up, giving you a more survival style of gameplay. Really, what you get with Paper Cut Mansion is three distinctly different gameplay styles and mechanics that merge together to make one overall title.
Now, I have to admit that this game put me in a bad mood right from the moment it started proper (after the walking introduction) because the first thing I had to do was solve a sliding puzzle… and I really don’t like sliding puzzles. I just felt that this was going to be an uninspiring and very cookie-cutter title with bog-standard puzzles. Gladly, I was very quickly proven wrong as the game really opened up to something far more worthy and enjoyable soon after. The puzzles here are wonderfully varied. Some are very familiar and some feel truly unique. The NeoCortex dimension is (as previously mentioned) the ‘standard’ one that you will start on as the game begins. Here, you have to search your surroundings and examine furniture for clues. You can rotate and explore the items, open drawers and such, to try and find whatever it is that you need to solve a puzzle. Even then, the clues themself can also be explored as many of them will have something hidden on them that will open up a solution that you may have missed. You really do need to keep your wits about you in this dimension and use detective skills.
The Reptilian Complex dimension is a lot more action-based. Loads of enemies and you armed with (eventually) a variety of weapons to take them all out. This one plays much more like a shooter/brawler-dungeon crawler with a multitude of collectable upgrades and customisable equipment. The focus here is finding a loadout that suits you and fine-tuning your skills as you kill scary beasts and apparitions. The third dimension, Limbic System, is where you need to try to stay alive and not freeze to death. It is cold and unless you can find somewhere to keep warm, you’ll soon see your demise as you try to explore the mansion and find your way to the next floor.
All three of the dimensions play very differently from each other and yet, they are all still very much part of the same game. You will always have one main mission, and that is to find and open a talking door that will take you to the next floor of the mansion. However, the talking door will give you a mission to complete specific to one of the three dimensions. So, you’ll need to play in all three on each floor of the mansion to really get an understanding of what is going on and how to progress further into Paper Cut Mansion. At set points in the game’s story, you can make decisions that will affect just how things pan out, this leads to a whopping 27 different endings to discover. Thankfully, Paper Cut Mansion offers up gameplay that you will want to come back to and the replay value is high here and outside of the main mission, there’s plenty more to see and do. NPCs will give you side quests to complete based on one of the three dimensions, weapons and upgrades to find and more.
The roguelite gameplay works very well here and you will always learn something new with each successive run. Perma-death and procedurally generated levels will keep you on your toes, as well as help to keep the game fresh and interesting each time you do die and restart. Then there is the atmosphere and overall style. The paper cut-out aesthetic may give you impressions of a child’s pop-up book, but don’t let that fool you. Paper Cut Mansion has a genuine feeling of dread and horror. Look, the game opens with a short intro where you have to do nothing more than walk along a path to the mansion itself. This short segment not only sets up the tone perfectly, it even made me jump at one point, and all I was doing was walking right. Then, when you do get into the mansion itself, the feeling of dread intensifies and you just have no idea what to expect. There are surprises everywhere, even doing something as simple as searching a bed can give you a scare.
Priced at around £17 and available to buy now on PC and all the consoles, Paper Cut Mansion is a charming title that really has a lot more going on than it first seems. There is a real depth of gameplay here, the melding of three different game styles and mechanics via the different dimensions adds plenty of variety. That’s before you get into all the different weapons and upgrades. The art style is wonderful and lends its way to some really great and unexpected scary moments. A roguelite that’ll keep you coming back for more, a great title to play this Halloween and a fantastic example of why indie games can be creative and unique.