It’s perhaps telling that more than three years after the release of Paper Beast on Sony’s first attempt at PlayStation VR back in March 2020, that there still isn’t anything quite like Éric Chahi’s transcendental meditation on emergent alien ecosystems, never mind one that manages to stimulate the senses quite so palpably into the bargain.
Certainly everything that was said in our original review of Paper Beast remains true and as such, I would point you towards that review for additional insight into the majesty that Chahi and the folks at Pixel Reef have crafted here. In regards to Paper Beast Enhanced Edition specifically, this is without doubt the definitive version of one of the very best titles from the last generation of PlayStation VR and is arguably as essential as it has ever been.
Paper Beast Enhanced Edition PSVR 2 Review
The Definitive Edition Of One Of PSVR’s Standout Efforts
Starting with what makes Paper Beast Enhanced Edition the definitive version when compared to its last generation predecessor, the improvements are largely technical in nature and expectedly leverage the much more formidable capabilities of PlayStation VR2.
From the off Paper Beast Enhanced Edition sports a full native 4K resolution presentation, which means that the decidedly blurry presentation of the PlayStation VR original – particularly when attempting to gaze at objects some distance away – is a thing of the past, replaced now by a veritable paradise of super smooth edges and vibrantly sharp visuals that just weren’t possible before.
In addition, Paper Beast’s debut on PSVR 2 also brings with it a richer and more dense world, thanks in no small part to much improved levels of texture detail and a more populous sandbox world that features a far greater number of flora and fauna than was ever possible in its previous incarnation. Finally on the visual front, Paper Beast Enhanced Edition also brings an especially striking implementation of HDR to the table, with the cherry red clouds, golden sands and beguiling shadows of the various denizens of Paper Beast Enhanced Edition looking better than they ever have.
Supplementing these substantial visual improvements is a much needed change to the control system. No longer limited to the teleportation movement system which governed traversal in its 2020 release and which made matters a touch clunky as a result in retrospect, Paper Beast Enhanced Edition now permits full locomotive movement, allowing you to venture across Paper Beast’s otherworldly realm effortlessly.
An alien, almost melancholy masterwork, Paper Beast Enhanced Edition feels like a marriage of Princess Mononoke and 1990s sci-fi cult flick Lawnmower Man, not least because its sandbox environments feel at once peculiar and yet, thanks to the numerous facsimiles of various animals such as deer, elephants and more, it also feels intensely natural too.
A first-person adventure offering with a focus on exploration, Paper Beast is about diving into the depths of cyberspace to discover a world teeming with all manner of exotic life, only to also find out that a mysterious presence is seeking to destroy such harmony and so as this visitor to a seemingly fantastical realm that is at once alien and also familiar, you are tasked with
Paper Beast is resolutely simple to play – you move around the environment, grab things and occasionally throw them and that’s it. Anybody can play Paper Beast Enhanced Edition and yet, there is complexity here too, as a sprawling and sophisticated ecosystem propagates around you, directly reacting to your interactions with this stirring, alien world.
Because Paper Beast never tells you what to do next, either through explicit text or signposting in the UI, it instead leaves the onus on the player, relying on your natural senses of sight and sound to resolve situations that occur in the environment. It’s refreshing therefore that Paper Beast doesn’t harry the player, but at the same time depends on your natural curiosity to push events forward.
If you wanted to be a touch reductive, you could reasonably posit that Paper Beast is a walking sim with puzzles, yet these conundrums are unique in that they challenge you to test the rules and attributes that govern each area that you find yourself in, paying particular attention to how the various paper creatures react to the different stimuli in the environment. And all of it without a single on-screen, hand-holding prompt from the UI telling you what to do next.
In an early scenario, one of the denizens of Paper Beast’s world finds itself trapped in a body of water early on thanks to some mysterious black vines and begins to wail, informing the player of its discomfort. To help allow this mammoth lifeform composed of paper and rigid card to continue on its journey you must pluck out the vines one by one and thus progress on through Paper Beast’s opulent realm of wonders. In another, you find yourself in possession of a long, worm-like creature that when placed on the ground, can ingest sand (and expel it out of its opposite end), allowing you to remove such natural barriers with ease.
In addition to its story scenario, Paper Beast Enhanced Edition provides a sandbox mode too. Here players can shape the terrain how they like, change the weather to their own preferences and then subsequently populate the environment with all manner of creatures and then sit back to see how the ecosystem functions in this customised melting pot of life. Representing a great addition to the core story mode, Paper Beast’s sandbox mode also succeeds in not only providing additional insight into just how robust and versatile the ecosystem is which underpins the events of that aforementioned mode, but also in allowing players to just kick back and see what worlds of their own they can fashion from the building blocks that Paper Beast provides them with.
As accomplished as Paper Beast Enhanced Edition is from a visual perspective, the audio side of the equation is of equal heady calibre. From the melodic sounds of its carefully orchestrated soundtrack, to the furious rushing of wind as a paper hurricane roars past you to the rustling of many strands of paper as a beast stalks past you – the aural sensation is palpable and still feels unmatched even today.
Despite being a port of a nearly four year old release, Paper Beast remains a roundly effective showcase for the capabilities of PSVR 2. A ponderous flight of fancy into an alien world filled with exotic flora and fauna, Paper Beast Enhanced Edition invites players to play a key role in the development of its engaging ecosystem, all the while taking them on a stirring adventure through a realm that will remain long in the memory. If you previously owned a PlayStation VR and didn’t buy Paper Beast, now is the time to correct that mistake.
Paper Beast Enhanced Edition is out now on PSVR 2. Owners of the PlayStation VR version can upgrade for $4.99.
Review code kindly provided by PR.