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Paper Trail screenshot

Paper Trail review

The premise of Paper Trail is a simple, but brilliant one. Technically, this beautifully-animated little game is a fairly standard puzzle-adventure. But with the world you explore printed onto double-sided pieces of paper, it’s probably quite unlike anything you’ve played before.

Your tasks will seem fairly familiar: roll a stone onto a switch to activate a door, make your way from A to B, and so on and so forth. But to do any basic task in Paper Trail, you’ve got to perform a bit of origami. You see, there might not be a path for you to pass from one side to the other until you fold over the sheet of paper you’re currently on and see what’s on the other side. By folding down from the top, up from the bottom, or diagonally from a corner, you might reveal a new pathway.

And so, succeeding in Paper Trail, and making your way through each of its short but sharp levels, means performing a series of folds. You can’t ever fold your paper where you’re stood, and there’ll occasionally be other obstacles you can’t fold over, too. So, you’ll need to move around in order to perform the correct fold, maybe unfolding and folding again several times before you achieve what you need to do.

Paper Trail screenshot
Image: Newfangled Games

Figuring out the right set of folds is tough, but thankfully Paper Trail has a built-in hints system. It will show you the order your paper needs to be folded, but won’t show you how to move around, so there’s still a bit of work to be done on your part, even if you do “cheat”. It certainly helps — though if you do manage to complete a puzzle without taking a hint, you’ll feel like quite the paper-folding master.

Related: The best puzzle games on PS4 and PS5

Perhaps the downfall of Paper Trail is that, as unique as its premise is, it does get tiresome after a while. Sure, new mechanics are introduced over time, such as moving platforms, rotating walkways and domino-like blocks that can only be walked across if they’re paired up. But the single concept of folding remains steadfast — and it’s an acquired taste.

For me, figuring out the solution to a level has been a case of trial and error. Fold one corner: no, that’s not right. Fold another corner: nope, that doesn’t work, either. Fold from the left — still not it. It’s a painstaking dance of folding and unfolding, and if you’re not a very patient person, you might find your tolerance for Paper Trail is quite low.

Paper Trail screenshot
Image: Newfangled Games

Does that make it a bad, flawed game? Not at all. Paper Trail has set out to be something very specific, and that’s exactly what it is. It’s brilliantly executed, with a gorgeous hand-drawn art style and colourful characters you can’t help but love — even the random gibberish-y sound effects that make up their voices. Playing on PS5, you’ll get satisfying feedback from your DualSense controller when you fold, and there’s a pleasing sense of resistance if you try to fold over something you can’t.

You simply might find, like me, that this isn’t a game you can rush through. I’ve certainly found I’ve enjoyed it more playing in short chunks, tackling just a couple of short levels at a time before leaving to do something else, resetting my brain ready for when I come back. That’s not to say some players won’t eat up Paper Trail in a couple of sittings — it’ll take around eight hours to complete, give or take, and if you can better embrace the complexities of paper folding, there’s a good chance you’ll be much more willing to spend more time with it.

If you enjoy puzzle games, you should definitely give Paper Trail a try. It’s beautiful, it’s unique, and there’s no doubt that its origami-based challenges are brilliantly thought-out. They just won’t be for everyone — and that’s OK.

This review of Paper Trail is based on the PS5 version of the game, with a code provided by the publisher. It’s available on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Switch and PC.

Paper Trail review - GameSpew's score

Paper Trail
7 10 0 1
Brought to life with gorgeous hand-drawn art, Paper Trail is beautiful to look at. Its puzzles, centring around folding and unfolding paper, are an acquired taste, however, and can quickly grow tiresome. As well-designed and clever as they are, we'd wager some players will struggle to digest more than a couple of levels at a time.
Brought to life with gorgeous hand-drawn art, Paper Trail is beautiful to look at. Its puzzles, centring around folding and unfolding paper, are an acquired taste, however, and can quickly grow tiresome. As well-designed and clever as they are, we'd wager some players will struggle to digest more than a couple of levels at a time.
7/10
Total Score

We like...

  • It's beautiful
  • Its DualSense implementation on PS5 is excellent
  • There's a hint system on tap

We don't like...

  • Folding and unfolding quickly grows tiresome

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