Paper Trail Paper Trail PS5 Review PS5 Review

Paper Trail Review (PS5) – A Page-Turning And Poignant Puzzler

Paper Trail PS5 Review Paper Trail surprised me from the moment I began to the moment I set the controller down and I couldn’t be happier that I played it. Just underneath the folds of this delightfully unique puzzler is a heartfelt story about learning to grow up and move on, as well as the power of escapism and how we see the world around us. Paper Trail is the heartwarming and touching adventure that I didn’t know that I needed and once I started, I couldn’t stop turning those pages.

The papercraft world of Paper Trail is fully realised with beautiful and expressive art around every corner and while it might not be the longest game in the world, it manages to make use of its short length to full effect. Paper Trail is a marvel of a puzzle game that manages to deliver an inventive set of mechanics while using those mechanics to convincing effect in the greater picture.

And that picture is a marvel to behold.

Paper Trail Review (PS5) – A Pageturning and Poignant Puzzler

Opening the Book

Paper Trail delicately balances the needs of story and gameplay and manages to weave them into a convincing whole that had me glued from beginning to end. Following the story of Paige Turner (get it?) as she runs away from home to study at university, Paper Trail takes you on a journey through wooded forests, lost ruins and seaside towns on a quest to get to the big city.

The story itself is one of the reasons this game resonated with me in such a way and so I would be genuinely sad to say too much about it here. Each character you come across on your relatively short journey across the world is full of personality and quips that lend some nice pace-breakers as you solve puzzle after puzzle. While the game does make use of full English dialogue during particularly important story moments, the majority of dialogue is delivered through some of the most entertaining gibberish that I’ve ever heard in a game, that never felt anywhere close to annoying.

At the heart of Paper Trail is a story about living your life in spite of your past and not being afraid to live in the moment. I didn’t expect to experience such a resonant story in a game like this but I feel blessed to have experienced it that way. So much of Paige’s journey reflects feelings that I have felt – or am still feeling – as I keep moving forward and pursuing what I want to pursue. Details of Paige’s life are shared over the course of each area and while there’s a light supernatural element at play, it never becomes the focus. Paper Trail serves its characters before all else and succeeds wonderfully in doing so.

The supernatural and surrealist elements accent the story just right to end up creating a story that will resonate with everyone who has ever had to go out on their own and walk their own path despite being told no.

Folding in on yourself

The puzzles in Paper Trail all revolve around folding paper and creating paths through screens of obstacles in order to move forward. The core elements of this system are introduced at the start of the game and are wholly explored throughout, while never becoming overly complicated or frustrating. The foundations of looking to the other side of the paper and working out what folds to make is intuitive, interesting and very much encourage experimentation throughout.

There are no enemies or fail states within Paper Trail – with the focus being on the atmosphere and steadily working out the solutions to the puzzle laid out in front of you. I appreciated this focus on slow puzzle solving as I never felt any pressure to complete things under time pressure or moving obstacles. Anything that moves in the puzzle does so by the player’s hand, lending an unprecedented amount of control and pace that suits this type of game perfectly.

Each area of Paper Trail introduces new mechanics to experiment with and each of these is well realised and thoughtfully designed to add extra depth to the folds that you make. These mechanics include platforms that can be moved, blocks to match up, light beams to aim and a variety of others that fundamentally change your objectives as you enter a new room. Despite the catalogue on offer here, these never feel overbearing or overused in puzzles and each offers a unique flavour that breaks up the pace of the game nicely.

Similarly, the story of the game is also told through paper dioramas that task the player with folding scenes in particular ways to unearth – or unfold – more of the story and the background of Paige and her family. These are each wonderfully illustrated pieces of art that expressively show the story of Paige as she ventures through an unknown world, as well as looking at her past and why she chose to move away. Once again, these have no fail states and encourage you to take your time with the process of puzzle-solving.

Holding your Hand

In an effort to ensure that anyone can make their way to the end of this heartening story, Paper Trail offers a suite of accessibility options that allow for less experienced players to slowly work their way through various screens and problems they come up against. Available at any time during gameplay is a folding flowchart, that allows you to consult exactly how the sides of the stage should be folded in order to succeed at the puzzle.

This flowchart – while it tells you where to fold and in what order – doesn’t tell you the granular detail about when to fold or what needs to be moved between the different folds. To this end, the flowchart functions as a gentle nudge rather than a “solve puzzle” button and I really enjoyed this idea. Paper Trail still wants to encourage its players to engage with the world that it has created and to experience the sensation of folding, while maybe cutting down on the trial and error for less experienced players.

These options are never presented as an “easy” mode or anything that will make players feel bad for choosing to use them. Instead, the flowchart allows players to choose when they want help and to take some gentle guidance over a quick tap of a button that skips an entire section of game. By tasking players with working out how the game works with some guidance, I found this mode invaluable when learning the foundations of how things fold and what can be achieved with such a flexible system.

This gentle guidance helped me to grow my confidence when going out of my way to gather some scattered origami figures across the various stages. While these were totally optional to the progression of the main story, they were satisfying rewards with small amounts of flavour text that add to the world in a small but meaningful way.

Closing the Book

Ultimately, the more that I say about Paper Trail, the more I rob you of the experience of that first playthrough. Every aspect of this game is meticulously designed to feel intentional and serves the greater purpose of a truly effective story. Where many games with this premise would buy into the supernatural powers of a girl being able to fold the world around her, Paper Trail positions this as a truly powerful thing that feels exceptionally grounded.

The picture book style lends this a sense of timelessness that literally feels like a book come to life. You would hope so given the core identity of folding pages in on themselves – but the point remains to be said. Paper Trail masterfully captures the spirit of the picturebooks from our collective childhood in not just visuals, but everything. Some tiny finicky issues with the folding cursor do borderline nothing to impact my enjoyment of a title that will stay with me for ages after I’ve finished it.



The Final Word

For what Paper Trail sets out to do - it does so with a clear passion and mastery of craft that is rarely seen in the industry today. While not everyone might resonate with the story in the same way that I have, those who do will feel every fold and every step of Paige's journey through a whimsical and wonderfully designed world that manages to mix an inventive new twist on top-down puzzling with a heartening premise that will sit with me for a long time.