Top-down puzzle adventure Paper Trail is the kind of page-turner you can only get in games

Paige walking through a snowy map in Paper Trail
(Image credit: Newfangled Games)

If you're a fan of the cosier side of games, Paper Trail will probably have come up on more than one occasion. Although I was immediately interested in its handmade watercolour-esque visuals, the element that really sunk its hooks into me was the use of origami as the puzzle-solving mechanic. I've played a lot of puzzle games, and I love the genre dearly, but it's been a while since I've been so genuinely entranced by a game's core interaction. 

The demo, which is only a small fraction of the adventure, introduces you to this folding mechanic through a storybook-like sequence. At first, this does seem pretty simple, since you only have to fold sheets in half to change the image or scene inside the paper upon unfolding. But as you go through this opening sequence, you start to see how the paper you're working with can be folded in more intricate ways to solve puzzles. 

I assumed that this would just be folding certain sections of the map in one or two ways, but the depth this mechanic spans has you manipulating the entire environment. The setup sees you guiding Paige, a wanderlust protagonist on a mission to pursue her dreams as a budding academic, from area to area. Initially, this seems fairly straightforward before the mechanic's intricacy comes to the fore.

For example, rather than just folding sheets in half, you can start to drag in corners and fold the bottom to meet in the middle, which may open up windows and pathways. There are so many ways you can fold each sheet that Paper Trail feels as if there are endless ways to solve each puzzle, and bodging through with a lot of trial-and-error is weirdly satisfying. Plus, the handy 'hint' tab, which you can look at any time, gently guides you through any area you may be stuck on. But rather than instructions telling you, you're shown how to fold the paper to unlock the path or solve the puzzle at hand. 

This really comes into play once Paige sets off on her journey. If I had been thrust into the game without the initial introduction explaining how the folding works, I would've probably felt a bit overwhelmed: fortunately, Paper Trail holds your hand just enough to get you set up before sending you on your way. With that being said, there is still a significant amount of challenge that keeps you on your toes. I wanted to make sure that I was seeing everything that these small areas had to offer, regardless of how many folds I was making. 

Even though I thought, "How hard can it be?" At the start, the further I started to go the more challenging the game became. Before long, you're folding corners to try and connect dominos to create a path or moving statues across sheets to hold down buttons. The challenge increases alongside your own development through the game, so while the puzzles are becoming more complex, your capacity to solve them in creative ways is ever-increasing. I found this reinforced the relaxing puzzle-solving experience that Paper Trail wants to cultivate, without the game ever becoming frustrating or feeling impossible to solve.

The demo does limit how far you can delve into the story of Paper Trail though, and just as I felt I was really getting stuck in I was reminded that it doesn't launch in full until May 21. But I'm eager to travel further and discover whether this gorgeous hand-crafted world can keep surprising me until the final pages.

Kara Phillips
Evergreen Writer

Kara is an evergreen writer. Having spent three years as a games journalist guiding, reviewing, or generally waffling about the weird and wonderful, she’s more than happy to tell you all about which obscure indie games she’s managed to sink hours into this week. When she’s not raising a dodo army in Ark: Survival Evolved or taking huge losses in Tekken, you’ll find her helplessly trawling the internet for the next best birdwatching game because who wants to step outside and experience the real thing when you can so easily do it from the comfort of your living room. Right?