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Paper Trail Review: A Cozy Puzzler For Perceptive Players

Indie puzzler Paper Trail is a clever little gem that will put you through your paces.
Paper Trail Review: A Cozy Puzzler For Perceptive Players
Newfangled Games

Newfangled Games’ Paper Trail is a striking game, even by indie standards. With a watercolor-like art style and strong color schemes, its design resembles that of a picture book and works this style into the very mechanics of the game.

Players must navigate through a series of puzzles from a top-down perspective as if looking at paper. The solutions are often found by folding over and manipulating the colorful paper sheets, revealing hidden secrets and additional paths. Though Paper Trail eases players in gently, things soon ramp up and you’ll quickly find your puzzle-solving skills put to the test.

Embark on a journey, in the pursuit of knowledge! (Picture: Newfangled Games)

The story centers around Paige, a young girl with academic aspirations who leaves home to embark on a journey to continue her studies at university. Her adventure takes her through a number of biomes in which she must manipulate the paper world and find her route across to the next. Along the way, Paige meets plenty of characters who each have their own tales to tell and, after helping them, Paige reveals a little bit more about her own past and memories, particularly relating to her younger brother. We begin in Paige’s village where she lives with her family and where we’re introduced to some of the early mechanics, such as folding the edges and corners of the world to create new paths. You learn that you can only fold the paper as far as there isn’t anything obstructing it, such as a movable object or Paige herself. You’ll also need to try a number of combinations of fold in order to get the right result. 

These become more complicated with each new biome as new mechanics are added into the mix. Outside of just folding the paper, you’ll also need to move small platforms along an axis, move rocks onto pressure plates, and match special tiles just to name a few additional features.

Fold, climb, and push your way to the other side. (Picture: Newfangled Games)

What you’ll quickly realize is that Paper Trail isn’t an easy game, and not one you’ll be speeding through either. It respects its players’ abilities with well thought-out puzzles, many of which involve multiple steps and thinking outside the box. There will inevitably be moments that leave you scratching your head, thinking you’ve folded the paper in every conceivable way and are yet no closer to the solution. Thankfully, you’re never rushed. There’s no timer, no pop-ups or ‘helpful’ assistants to stress you out. You can simply attempt the puzzles at your own pace, and a solution will eventually come to you. It’s a cozy game for those looking for a bit of brain stimulation coupled with some top-tier vibes. But, should it all get a bit too much, there is an option for some hints to help you get back on track. Rather than just showing you the answer, however, the hint allows you to look at the fold sequence as much or as little as you like. You’ll still need to work out where to move Paige and when, but the puzzles are much easier to navigate on a step-by-step basis. 

Paige will travel across plenty of beautiful biomes to reach the university. (Picture: Newfangled Games)

With the way you’ll be folding paper and moving objects in-game, it’s hard not to see how suited  Paper Trail is to touch screen controls for a more tactile experience. The game is set to release on iOS and Android via Netflix, which seems like a delightful way to engage with the puzzles, with each fold of paper at your fingertips. I reviewed Paper Trail on PS5 using the DualSense controller, and while the game ran like a dream, the controls did feel a little awkward in places, such as when grabbing the corners of the paper or selecting the smaller moving platforms. There are also no options for button mapping if you prefer your cursor to be controlled with the left stick rather than the right, for example. I should stress that these are minor nitpicks, and hardly detracted from my overall experience, though I’ll be eager to give it another go on mobile. 

The game will certainly appeal to those who love classic puzzle games, especially ones that often involve a bit of trial and error. Though it's this aspect that might cause some slight frustrations with certain players, given that it's not always a straightforward process to solve each puzzle. You'll need to experiment with a number of combinations before you have that eureka moment.

Verdict 4/5

As tricky as it is beautiful. (Picture: Newfangled Games)

Paper Trail is a beautiful indie puzzle game with unique mechanics that isn’t afraid to present its players with a challenge. Its strong color schemes and charming characters will make this a great addition to your cozy games collection, especially if you’re looking for something to put your brain to work. However, finicky controls on console creates some very minor hindrances which, if you’re already feeling a bit stumped on some puzzles, can lead you to stepping away for a short spell.

Paper Trail launches on May 21, 2024 on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Nintendo Switch, PC, and iOS & Android devices via Netflix Games. A PS5 code was provided for review.