Paper Beast – A Review

The premise

With all the data created day-in-day-out, it is not hard to imagine a whole universe being created in this other place. Fair play to the developer with the vision to imagine this wonderfully colourful ecosystem, which is both immersive and poetic. Paper Beast is the child of all the accumulated code that is lost in the creases of the internet. From a small spark of data a new life is formed.

As you can tell, the basic premise of this open-world exploration game is really quite philosophical. This is not at all surprising, as this world emerges from the imagination of Eric Chahi who brought us Another World. As a developer, he is always trying to create new worlds with its own myths and rules.

The world created in Paper Beasts is stunning. The animals that roam this vast landscape might be folded paper horses that might be tigers. There is also the bop of neurons and the odd floppy bit of newsprint. Yes, this game is trying to be clever – and it is – but it is also beautiful. The landscapes created are panoramic and ripe for exploration – with crags, dunes and mountains.

You will first meet what looks like a dinosaur with a bird’s nest head. It will walk over the top of you and you will be able to look up into its rib cage, which is more like the vaulted roof of a cathedral. This experience sets the tone for what is to come, where you will spend a lot of time feeling completely overwhelmed by the artistry and imagination. Everywhere you look there is something to capture your eye and draw your attention deeper into the world.

The vital details

Release date: Rift, Vive, and WMR 24th July 2020 and PSVR 24 March 2020
Adventure, exploration
Mode: Single Player
Developer and Publisher: Pixel Reef
Publisher: Plug in Detail
Supports: PSVR, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Valve Index, WMR
Play Area: Seated, standing, room-scale
Input: Gamepad, motion-controllers
Comfort levels: comfortable

The opinion

Philosophical, beautiful, artistry – but does it play well? Let’s explore the gameplay and technicals to see if this is just a roam around an art gallery.

The gameplay

You are wondering what the point of this world with paper creatures could possibly be. So, you are impressed with the geometric shapes and colours, but then what? Well, this is not the game for an action-orientated game junkie. This is the game for those with an inner naturalist who wants to get to know the creatures in this world and understand how to form relationships with them. You need to get from here, wherever that is, to there, whatever that will look like, and you need the help of these other creations. You are not a God, you cannot command them to support you but you can work with them and form collaborations.

Each level has a problem to resolve. You need to work out where you need to get to and then overcome the hurdle in the way. You then need to take a long hard look at the wildlife around you and work out which of the beasts has the necessary talent to help you overcome the issues you face. If there is a heap of sand blocking a pipe there is likely to be a creature that would burrow through and create a trench for you. Your job is to find this creature and persuade it to help you.

The creatures are wonderful and their talents are varied. For some of the levels, you really need to use your imagination to think about how you could all cooperate to move forward. There is an interconnectedness in this ecosystem – and yes – the developer is blatantly requesting you take this metaphor and apply it to our world. It is a way of encouraging people to see how we rely on other species in our own ecosystem to move us from here to there. The good news is that you do not feel preached at – you don’t even have to acknowledge this. You can just enjoy playing in this sandbox world and meeting the wondrous creatures within.

The technical

This is a game that works better in virtual reality. Sure, you could play it on the flatscreen. The puzzles would still remain as alluring. However, being in a VR headset with these creatures makes it wholly immersive. When you use a creatures baby to lure it to do what you will it, the overwhelming emotions you feel are stunning. You find yourself compelled to find another way, even though it will be more time-consuming. Being inside the world gives you this sense of ethical ownership of your actions that few other games have ever instilled in us.

The narrative of the game is simple – but it needs to be. The concept of the game is too deep and the puzzles too complex to deal with a deep storyline on top of this. You really do have to get from here to there – but the graphics along the way and the ever-changing environment make this a stunning experience.

Our brief takeaway

The journey you take when playing this game is more than just within a computer environment. You find yourself slightly transformed by the interactions each time you play. It is a sedate game and for those who love action, it will leave you uninspired. However, for those in love with nature and the interconnectedness of our world, this is a masterpiece.