When a review is marked as ‘in progress’, it is done on the basis that enough time has been invested to obtain solid impressions even though we have been unable to beat it. This may be down to an extreme length or brutal difficulty, but either way it is a title that has overcome us… at least for a period of time.
Games marked as such will receive the usual review treatment, plus some additional footage to help give you a general idea of what to expect. These games will likely be finished at some point, and the review will be updated accordingly. As such, keep checking back if you want to keep a track of our full final thoughts when we have them!
Many thanks to Thunderful for the review code.
I really am a sucker for papercraft. Anything that looks like it has been made by hand automatically wins a place in my heart and a game using it would have to be really bad in order to ruin it for me. Whether it be AAA efforts like with Yoshi’s Crafted World or an indie game like Paperball Deluxe, the aesthetic just hits that sweet spot.
So, when Paper Cut Mansion came along offering a papercraft roguelike survival horror game, I was instantly sold on the idea. Whilst roguelikes can be rather hit or miss for me, having a randomly generated survival horror game certainly sounded like an interesting premise.
Thankfully, the game almost pulls the concept off. Almost.
AT THE MOUNTAIN-FOLDS OF MADNESS
Playing as a detective called Toby, you set off towards the mysterious papercraft mansion in order to dscover the mysteries that surround it. As you draw closer, you get sucked through a portal and find yourself dumped inside the mansion interior in a locked room containing a talking corpse and a green butterfly.
This surprisingly helpful dead dude explains that the green butterfly acts as a guide to help you through the mansion, giving you hints as to where helpful clues are located. It used to help him, but given his current state it has attached itself to you instead. Searching the room will give you a clue as to the door code and delve deeper into the mansion whereby you’ll encounter numerous NPCs that may or may not be of help.
As you work your way through the floors of the mansion, meeting the demands of its deranged denizens and talking doors, you’ll uncover more evidence that will help you fill in more of the story and work out what is going on…
CUT YOUR LOSSES
… until you die. Death carries with it a heavy price as you find yourself sent right back to the start of the mansion. Some things carry over, such as obtained item cards (more on those later) and completed sidequests, but otherwise you need to go through the whole thing again.
Except this time, things are different. Your starting room may look similar (but it also may not), but even the initial puzzle may be different too (or even non-existent!). The rest of the mansion seems to have shifted too, giving it a whole new layout, new puzzles, and even new sidequests to do. It’s an interesting gimmick that certainly helps with replayability, even if there aren’t quite enough variants to stop you from seeing repeats from one play through to the next – but it still feels fresh enough.
In essence, the game is essentially a survival horror title in the vein of Resident Evil, albeit with some key differences. The main thing that sets the game apart is the three planes of existence that you navigate between. Each floor contains entries to alternative dimensions that, whilst not visually different, play in completely different ways. The Neo Cortex will be the first one you’ll encounter and is focused primarily on solving puzzles by interacting with objects for clues and opening combination locks; the Reptilian Complex is crawling with enemies, but arms you with a candy can gun to blast them away; and the Limbic System is a derelict frozen wasteland that requires you to manage your body temperature to make it though alive. Each of these offer their own unique mechanics, and questlines can require that you navigate any of these worlds.
Each run will play out in a very similar way, with your key aim being to find the talking door in the level and meet its demands in order to gain entry – at which point, you’re able to speak with The Gatekeeper, who will grant you access to the next floor upon meeting yet another demand. These are pulled from a range of possible objectives, so there’s really no anticipating what it will require. It could be collecting runaway memory fragments, lighting torches, solving a code, beating a boss-like enemy, amongst many other things.
You probably won’t want to just run through the levels though, since there’s plenty of other stuff to do along the way. Random NPC quests will grant you medals as a reward, that can help boost one of your stats in order to help you make it through. Most of the stats will increase survivability, but increasing your brainpower is seriously recommended in earlier runs as that will allow you to open up certain locked chests that may grant useful items that can be used in future runs. Items include new weaponry, stat boosting items, or other handy gizmos to help make your run easier. More importantly, these items also get stored for future runs should you want to experiment with some at a later date.
All of this combines together rather well, and manages to successfully feel like a survival horror despite its random generation. Sure, some environments may be better than others (such as a gorgeous looking Casino I found myself in early on), but they all feel unique enough to be fun to explore … even if that comes at a cost.
The main problem with the game, and one that spoils the randomly generated levels, is the absolutely dreadful camera system. Whilst the game is initially orientated in the classic isometric viewpoint, you do have access to a free camera to use how you please. The problem is that this viewpoint doesn’t quite work so well with this perspective, and it makes using it quite nauseating, as you find yourself swinging it around to see what’s going on.
This free camera also has the added side effect of making the game far more difficult to navigate than it really should be; learning each floor can be tricky anyway due to the random generation, but having the camera throw off your bearings can often see you not knowing where that one thing you saw earlier was. Many a time I found myself running in circles attempting to locate an NPC to turn in a quest just because I couldn’t relocate them. Making the camera fixed but with the ability to pan would have greatly improved the experience – although similarly having an actual map to consult would have also been a solid option too. It leads to the floors just feeling unmemorable as a result, and I feel like it’s something that could have been easily rectified.
It’s a shame too that this issue spoils the overall enjoyment of what is otherwise a great little game. Sure, being a roguelike will no doubt put people off from the offset (like it almost did with me), but having a survival horror game with random puzzle locations and solutions actually feels really refreshing. The main issue is that death has such a harsh punishment due to how much progress you lose in such a slow paced game that many may find it hard to come back for further runs. This will no doubt be a dealbreaker for many, and I think it could have been a good idea to add some type of easier difficulty that only sent you back to the start of the current floor instead of losing everything.
All in all, Paper Cut Mansion is an enjoyable attempt at fusing the roguelike genre with survival horror. The camera can be a real pain at times, but the decent puzzles and beautiful aesthetic are what will suck you in. Just be aware that the game is very slow paced, as with most survival horror games, so death here feels far worse than in any other title in the genre. Whilst I wasn’t able to beat it, you can certainly see some footage of the game in action down below.