Review – Paper Beast

Paper Beast technically falls into a meditative walking sim sub category. There are some puzzles to overcome but for the most part, you spend your time admiring the environment as it directs you through a voiceless and beautiful desert world.

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Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.

When I first turned on this PSVR exclusive by Pixel Reef, I have to admit that I questioned if I had downloaded the correct game. Rather than the fantastical world with papier-mâché animals roaming it, I was placed into some virtual Chinese rock, light show concert. After about five minutes wondering what was going on, I suddenly appeared inside a tent listening to the same song on a tape reel. Only after I had pulled down the drapes to this tent was I introduced to Paper Beast’s living origami world.

Alone and confused on a sandy surface, you immediately get Journey vibes. You are given no context or  reason for being where you are, you simply are. You are unable to move other than to interact with the radio and to look around your surroundings and wait. After being left wondering for long enough, a paper crab slowly descends across your path. Grabbing it with a fishing-line type of mechanic, I toss the crab about. Lifting him and lowering him gently, moving him left and right until I finally get bored and toss the creature into the air to snatch him just before he impacts back down in the sandy dunes. That is, until a giant and massive paper beast lumbers up to me, as majestic as it is imposing.

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The spice must flow.

It is here that Paper Beast truly begins. With silent authority, the giant beast gestures for you to follow it. As you follow the slow moving beast, you come across other beasts. Most are passive while some are aggressive, but only to show hunters and prey. Nothing in this world actively pursues or damages you. Instead, you are allowed to take in the entirety of it.

The game’s puzzles challenge you to progress past obstacles along your way. You will need to bypass a simple platform or figure out how to remove an object in your way. You will need to figure out how to manipulate the world, and its inhabitants, to solve a level’s puzzle and move on to the next. None are overly difficult. Mostly just requiring you to take note of the world around you and to interact accordingly. However, the interaction itself can be quite frustrating.

When interacting with objects, you grab the closest one with a line-of-sight laser that is shot from an in-game version of your DS4 controller. Due to how close some objects can be, the game sometimes forces you to grab an object that you are not intending to, requiring you to move to a better location to grab the intended object. You can also use objects and items to lure specific animals to locations of need, but the actual functionality of doing so isn’t always impressive. When the game relies on these mechanics, you will battle it more than you will interact with it.

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Got to stay warm on those cold desert nights.

Movement is accomplished with the same line-of-sight laser. You will point in the direction you want to go and then use the left bumper button to bring up and adjust your teleportation spot. You use the analog stick to move your front-facing direction in 90 degrees, allowing you to look all around you. I tried searching through the game’s settings for a fluid movement but did not see any way to adjust this part of the game.

Visually, Paper Beast is beautiful. It truly is a wonder to see these creatures move in the world. The ever moving sand beneath your feet perfectly compliment the ever moving paper environments. You get a sense of feeling, whether it is fear, urgency or even calm, from the living creatures around you. However, even with the surrounding environments feeling alive, the actual arena you need to unpuzzle can sometimes feel a bit empty. Only having a handful of moving creatures and a couple of other objects to interact with. The music is tranquil and soothing. Almost hypnotic when in unison with the ever moving world. Paper Beast includes a sandbox mode that allows you to fully appreciate the beauty as well.

Since this is VR, we need to discuss motion sickness. When I first jumped into Paper Beast, I admit that I did get motion sickness well within an hour of gameplay. However, I also noticed that the game suffered drastically from drift. My in-game controller was pointing far left from where I was actually point and facing. Even holding Options did not correct this, still making me point to the left. After an update, drift is now minimal and holding Options resets it correctly. Motion sickness has all but disappeared since this too.

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They see me rollin’… they hatin’..

Paper Beast is a tranquil meditative walking sim that requires problem solving to move forward. You don’t learn about the world by scanning objects, but more live in the world by interacting with its paper inhabitants. It overcomes some awkward mechanics to slowly take you from curiosity and wonder to truly sensing and even caring for the life of the world. Paper Beast succeeds much more in practice than simply “on paper.”

 

Graphics: 8.5

Visually breathtaking to watch the living environment. Some levels can feel empty with only a handful of items needing interaction.

Gameplay: 7.0

Basic gameplay results in focusing on what the game is trying to put across. Movement and grabbing mechanics can feel awkward.

Sound: 9.0

The beautiful and tranquil soundtrack is a perfect compliment to the visuals.

Fun Factor: 8.5

You can truly lose yourself in the approximate five hour long campaign. Mechanics can cause some puzzles to get tedious, however.

Final Verdict: 8.0

Paper Beast is available now on PS VR.

Reviewed on PS4 Pro.

A copy of Paper Beast was provided by the publisher.