As a kid, I was completely obsessed with origami. The idea that a simple piece of paper could become any creature of your imagination was pure magic to me, and between library books and early internet tutorials, it was a virtually free art form I could immerse myself in. This love for the simple-turned-complex was the inspiration behind the gargantuan undertaking that is Papetura - a game where everything you see, from the characters to the environment, is constructed out of paper. And I don’t mean in the way of Paper Mario - the game’s creator physically created everything in the world out of paper.
To bring it to life the handcrafted models were photographed in painstaking detail, using gorgeous and smartly planned lighting to create mood and detail instead of paint. The developer notes that he used regular old printer paper, which makes the incredible alluring world all the more impressive. The end result of this effort is a beautifully immersive world that I couldn’t take my eyes off of. Every character and detail felt so alive that I constantly found myself stopping to take it all in and wonder how they were able to get all of these emotions and details out of paper.
The well-crafted atmosphere is accented perfectly by the simple and uncomplicated way the story is told. There’s no text or spoken words - the characters make adorable (and sometimes heartbreaking) little sounds, and ideas are communicated through symbols in paper thought bubbles. It’s effective and goes hand-in-hand with the game’s overall feeling of peering into just a small slice of a much larger world. Through these moments, you come to understand that an evil creature is trying to set flame to your beautiful paper world, and it’s up to you to stop them. The brief amounts of story were just enough to make me feel like the stakes matter, but not so much that I felt bogged down - the story gets you on board quickly, then whisks you off on a ride.
While this game could have easily rested on the laurels of being an actual work of art, it manages to be a fun game as well. It’s a point-and-click adventure, with puzzles that need to be solved to move through the game. The puzzles all exist in the world itself and serve a narrative purpose, which further fueled my feelings of immersion. The puzzles were all fun to solve and seemed to have a good level of complexity - nothing that had me looking up solutions, but I also didn’t just breeze through every room unchallenged. If you do get stuck though, there’s an in-game mechanism to help you out. You can get a hint for any puzzle you’re on by playing a quick mini-game and conjuring a vision. Instead of just highlighting an item, you’ll get a little animated vignette that shows you what you need to do. It’s a really thoughtful inclusion that I think helps players stay engaged and moving forward in a way that fits the gameplay well.
Playing this game felt a lot like watching a Miyazaki movie or the surreal James and the Giant Peach. The way it oozes style and blends reality with fantasy was reminiscent of these other visual treats, and it made me feel like I was exploring a brand-new world. I think it’s perfectly fitting then that it runs about the length of a movie as well - my playthrough clocked in at just over an hour and a half. As much as I would have liked to stay in its world just a bit longer, the journey felt complete at the end and I think it accomplished what it set out to do. Importantly, I also feel like the value was there for what I paid - considering the depth of work this must have taken and just how much I loved it, the $10 price of admission feels like I’ve gotten away with a heist.
When I visit museums, I am always overcome with the same feeling: amazement that something so beautiful was made out of something as simple as stone or shells. Over and over again, as I basked in this intricate, curious, and lovely paper world, I was struck by this same feeling. The incredible visuals are complemented well by a thoughtfully understated UI, music that perfectly accentuates every scene, and puzzles that were a delight to solve - using the in-game hints or not. If you enjoy immersive stories, well-designed point-n-click adventures, or games that feel like the movies you were obsessed with as a kid, this one is right up your alley.
Papetura is out now for PC on Steam. It’s on sale for the rest of launch week, so there’s no better time to pick it up than right now!