I’m not much of a fighter, and while I’ve been known to love with no complaints, my skills aren’t world-renowned. I’m more of a runner. Get me into trouble, and watch me high tail away from it in short order. While Paperbound joins a bewilderingly huge number of local multiplayer combat games, it sits in the small pool with Nidhogg of games were fighting is only half the story. The fun is in the chase.

Before you get to that point though, you do indeed need to bust some heads. Every character has a melee attack, and a pair of projectiles; scissors which can be tossed and recovered, and one ink bomb per life. Use those to reach the target kill count on any combination of up to three human or AI opponents though, and you’re tasked with escaping the stage through a ‘tear’ in the paper world. It’s here that cat-like quickness is essential, and running and jumping needs to be augmented by hitting triangle to shift your own personal gravity, VVVVVV style (neatly enough, the main character in that game is here, as well as stars from Guacamelee and Monaco among others), in order to get to the exit quickly. Should someone kill you in your attempts to get there, the exit closes. That can lead to a tense, comical and occasionally exasperating game of to and fro, which neatly instills the ‘bastard factor’ a local multiplayer game needs; the feeling that skill will usually win out, but the novice who picks up the pieces as a more talented player can’t get to their exit can get by and squeak out a victory.

There's only so much you can do on a single screen while making sure players still get together and fight, but maps are still fairly plain.

There’s only so much you can do on a single screen while making sure players still get together and fight, but maps are still fairly plain.

The fight then flight philosophy is best exploited in both king of the hill and capture the flag variants, wherein you’re looking to kill the king and retain your crown for as long as possible, and grabbing and returning pens respectively. Regardless of game mode, the more players the merrier, especially in team based modes where partner AI can frustrate. Happily though, the game eagerly accommodates smaller parties, and will even recommend certain maps to you depending on the number of people playing. When you do have larger maps built for four though, the game does struggle to fit everything on one static screen, and it can be difficult to squint and pick out your character amongst the carnage. Moreover, those big maps rarely do anything more with the core formula other than make the stage, well, bigger; there are a few dynamic elements to a select few maps, with a rotating platform or deadly lava wall here or there, but they’re few and far between, and choice of stage rarely does much to the game other than create a new backdrop.

It’s a shame, and a lack of capitalisation on certain ideas permeates the whole package, to an extent. Despite being called Paperbound, and theming its levels as pages of a book, there’s little made of the game’s papery nature. The book theme doesn’t make its way into gameplay itself, and is only seen in the level select screen, while characters holding scissors and an ink grenade is the only mechanical concession to a papery context. Why not have those scissors score holes in the scenery, or have the ink grenade obscure objects or create new ones? As is, it feels like characters could be Medieval knights or future space marines for all it matters to play.

Of course, these nits to pick only really become obvious when you’re away from friendly banter and struggling over controllers (or via Shareplay). The shortcomings of the game are more obvious when playing against up to three bots on one’s own, especially as, despite the page hopping theme that would make for an easily cobbled together campaign, each single player fight is self-contained, with no motivation for winning. Of course this is a multiplayer game, and slamming it for  having a poor single player component is ridiculous. It puts any failings into stark relief, though and any ill feeling you may have toward the experience may be carried forward when you’re hosting your next get-together.

To the non-jaded, though, this can be a hoot. It’s a large enough, if unspectacular suite of jumpy brawling and upward falling that could easily sit ion your hard drive lurking and ready to spring out when four friends are at a loose end. It’s just nothing to eagerly write home about (ha!)

KAIJU VERDICT

2/4 Pops: Decent There might be problems that mount up and prevent it from being a top tier game, or it might not do enough to quite make it stand out, but a 2 can still be an enjoyable experience that the curious should try.

PS4 version tested

Review code supplied by Dissident Logic

 

 

 

 

 

 

About The Author

Gamer, Educator, Writer of Stuff, wrestler of professionals (sometimes)