Title: Paper Dolls Original
Publisher: Winking Entertainment Corporation
Social Media: https://www.facebook.com/WinkingCorp/
Genre: First-Person, Horror, Adventure
Age Rating: 12
Release Date: 26/06/19
Price: $16.99 / £13.99 GBP – Rapid Reviews were very kindly provided with a review code for this title.
A first-person survival horror game on the PS4? Count me in. A first-person survival horror game steeped with Asian culture and folklore? Count me in multiple times. I first saw this game when I caught the first part of John Wolfe’s playthrough on YouTube. It immediately caught my eye, and when I saw it was coming out on PS4, I knew I had to give it a try.
The game starts a little strange, and even now I’m not sure how the intro links to the game itself. You are a depressed man taking his daughter to her mother. Why? We’re not sure, but I hope it is to get some therapy. Alas, as sad thoughts distract you, a car crash ensues. Thrust into unconsciousness, you wake in an ancient Chinese house with nothing but the distant echo of your daughter’s voice offering you some little guidance. From there, the real story begins, and you must unravel the sinister history of the house before you can leave and return to your daughter.
The game looks good. There is also a VR version, and while I am not sure which came first, you can tell from the interactions with the various spirits that VR is where the Developers’ minds were at.
The entire game takes place in a house, and on the ground floor at that. But each room carries its own theme and purpose. There is a dreamlike quality to a lot of the sequences, and you are never really sure if what is happening to real or not. The house itself is old and rundown. The ceiling and wall are crumbling, and the overall aesthetic is one of convincing dereliction.
There was a lot of object repetition in the house, and the different rooms, with most of the objects, encountered being chairs, cupboards and shelving units being based off the same base image. This wasn’t necessarily a negative but did mean that monotony set in from time to time.
The best part of the visuals were the various spirits you met as you explored the house. Each one is very individual, and while I am no expert in ancient Chinese characters, each gives the feel of authenticity in terms of their role in the house and appearance in the game.
There was no real soundtrack in the game, but the effects that were used lent itself well to the chilling atmosphere. Creaks and melancholy groans echo around you, while your footsteps can have you on edge, especially once the spirits start to appear. The audio clues of their imminent arrival are their ghostly shuffling steps, at which point you know you must find a place to hide.
The vocal work, which has been translated into English – is well done while not being overdone. Used sparingly, and only when you have sealed one of the restless spirits, it gives subtle hints as to the background story, without detracting from the atmosphere.
As a first-person experience, you must explore the dark house in which you wake up. There is no way to escape other than to explore and unravel the mystery. Filled with 8 different puzzles that must be solved to complete the game, you must figure everything out alone.
Locked Up and Beyond Repair
Being in a state of disrepair, as well as being ancient, the house has no power. You can locate candles as you move around and can light them with matches that you must pick up from various rooms. You also have a flashlight that helps illuminate the route ahead of you. The use of darkness certainly helps to create a claustrophobic atmosphere.
All of the doors you need are locked, and it is up to you to find the keys and open the locks. This is done through exploration, puzzle-solving and sealing the spirits. This means finding their bodies and sealing them through quick-time events. This is a fun part of the game and offers a different way to take care of the enemies. Each wandering spirit has a body in the house: sealing one will remove that spirit from the game.
Only once all spirits are sealed can you move to the second floor and escape. While you are free to explore the house as you wish, there is a linear aspect to everything driven by the location of the different keys. This keeps the game both exciting and moving.
Fun Puzzles and Collectibles
While the game doesn’t give you a tutorial per se, it does explain how to solve certain puzzles and the point behind sealing the spirits, but only if you find the collectables with this information. The eight different puzzles are all unique, and while a few are simple, there are a couple that will have you scratching your head.
I will admit that one puzzle I needed help from Google on because the puzzle itself relied on both Chinese knowledge, and I believe, an element of cultural knowledge that I didn’t have. Even the help I found said the answer made no sense but was achieved through over an hour of trial and error.
The collectables in the game also add a nice extra element to the gameplay. There are several components. The spirits/victims’ personal information needs to be found. This includes:
- Role in the house
- Daily Tasks
- Favourite possession
While these are optional collectables, once you have them, there are clues within that can help guide you forward.
There is also a diary from Mr Lui, one of the victims. Eighteen different extracts are scattered around the house and again offer insight into the background of the story both directly and indirectly in the form of general character building.
Once you complete the game, you are given a ranking from S to F, and it takes into account deaths, saves, and time. This is a nice touch, and with a trophy being given for achieving an S rank, it is a killer hook for trophy and platinum hunters.
Once you have played through the game, the secrets have been revealed, and the full story told, the only real reason to go back for another run is for the sake of trophy hunting. To be honest, I am going to do just that. The basic playthrough leaves only two or three trophies outstanding, so the tease of a platinum badge is great. That being said, for many, there would be no real reason to go back into that house.
Paper Dolls is a fun horror game. It has a fun atmosphere, for those that like having their spine tingled. There are plenty of good moments and a few nice jump-scares. The tension comes from having to creep around the house and hide from the spirits. It doesn’t take long to learn that with a quick sprint, you can put enough distance between you and them to find a safe hiding space. The trick is knowing the layout of the house and which doors are unlocked.
The game isn’t perfect. You can’t sprint for more than two or three strides, and while not required, it just feels like a strange mechanic. The diary pieces and collectables can be tough to find, and often you need to be very accurate to trigger the select icon meaning things can be missed. Some stages involve repetition, and without any real clue other than your own intuition, some players could lose a lot of time wandering around aimlessly.
A good run would see the game completed in between 5 to 7 hours with all collectables, and that’s a good length for a horror game. I’d be interested in a sequel or checking out another game from the developers should there be one coming.
Rapid Reviews Rating
You can purchase Paper Dolls Original from the PlayStation Store on the following link, https://store.playstation.com/en-gb/product/EP2707-CUSA13441_00-PAPERDOLLSEUROPE
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.