Published by: Thunderful Games
Developed by: Space Lizard Studio
Papercraft is an incredibly wonderful thing when done right. I’m talking origami, paper puppets, dioramas, and all that good stuff.
In fact, fun little tidbit, in my formative years (probably around the age of seven or eight), I cut up some drawing pads I had into 2D adventure scapes. And I also fashioned little Minifigures that I could use to act out scenarios and small-scale narratives.
I wasn’t particularly skilled at the process of making the scenery or anything, but I thoroughly enjoyed myself. And, to this day, I’ve got a soft spot for the whole art style, an admiration for the precision, and a fondness for the nostalgia it gives me. It’s probably why I was such a huge Paper Mario fan.
However, when it comes to a dynamic experience using paper (or, in this particular example, cardboard predominantly), I can’t find a better adaptation than in Paper Cut Mansion.
Quick side note; our Paper Cut Mansion copy came courtesy of the publishers. It was performed on our PlayStation 5, as you’ve probably clocked in the title.
On the Right Page
Okay, so let’s start with the premise and story of Paper Cut Mansion. You take control of Toby, a police detective sent out to solve the mysterious mansion. As you walk to the mansion’s gates, you are whisked away to one of three dimensions; the Neo Cortex, the Limbic System, and the Reptilian Dimension. Don’t worry, I’ll explain more about those in a short while.
Your task is to travel through the many floors of the mansion – and the accompanying parallel dimensions – to gather clues, stop the darkness inside, and solve the mystery. It’s a wonderful blend of Paper Mario, Resident Evil (or maybe Silent Hill?), and general rogue-likes.
The more of the mansion you explore, the more clues you can put together for your case – which is the main goal of “completing” Paper Cut Mansion. However, as you progress further along and explore more floors, more about Toby’s past is revealed as well. Whilst he isn’t the most interesting of protagonists, it at least does something to make you give a damn about playing as Toby – other than the fact that he’s the main character, obviously.
Okay, so those aforementioned three dimensions. Arguably the selling point of the game is beyond its aesthetic; Paper Cut Mansion manages to make levels that would otherwise be completed in around two minutes feel more fleshed out thanks to the dimension-hopping you do. And each dimension offers a different gameplay style to master.
The Neo Cortex (represented by purple glowing tentacle portal things) is where you’ll do most of the legwork for the game. All of the clues and interactable (is that a word?) items in-game can be found here. You can examine a large portion of the furniture, where you can rotate the item/s in question, open any drawers and compartments, and look for clues/coins/secrets. However, sometimes you’ll also be greeted by the only real “horror” aspect of the game – a haunting ghost.
Honestly, the first time this clown popped out on me, I genuinely jumped. Not because he’s scary, because he’s not. But the music – which we’ll touch on more soon – alters instantaneously. And he’s accompanied by the most horrendous shrill I’ve ever heard in video games. Annoyingly, you can’t attack or hurt him in any way, so your only cause of action is to dodge him when he charges at you.
Whilst you can’t attack in the Neo Cortex realm, you can attack in the Reptilian Dimension (presented with a sinister red glowing tentacle portal thing). Because it gives you a “rifle”. It looks like a few toilet rolls or wrapping-up paper rolls stuck together, but it works. And it’s a good job, too, as this is the dimension where you need to shoot and “kill” all manner of monstrous enemies for…reasons. Bosses and goons alike will be found here, and all can be taken down with your trusty rifle.
And then there’s the Limbic System. Definitely our least favourite realm, this is the cold dead dimension. You’ll constantly lose health when wandering the halls until you can find a heat source. Numerous times, you’ll be tasked with taking a lit torch from one starting post to another post in order to light the way. This has the added bonus of providing you with a safe haven on the go.
All of these dimensions see you meet various NPCs. Some will offer you quests, others will be merchants. One will be a source to banish that aforementioned ghost. All of them will talk to you, though that doesn’t mean you can trust everybody. No spoilers, but, don’t necessarily trust anyone.
Cut That Corner
Well, apart from the inter-dimensional dog…god…spirit…thing that helps you on your quest. You’ll know who I mean from looking at the top left corner of the screen – he’s always there. He acts as a guide and as your health bar. And, to be honest, Paper Cut Mansion‘s health system is one of the best I’ve ever seen.
Each dimension has its own health bar – a purple one, a red one, and a blue one (for the Limbic System). Any cold damage sustained will make the blue health meter fill up, for example. The fuller it gets, the more damage you’ve taken. Take too much damage and you’re dead. And once you die, you gotta start all over from the beginning again. Hey, it is a rogue-like, after all.
And that’s the gist of it. You explore, and you clear out rooms and various parallel dimensions until you can escape that floor and progress further. You die, you have to start again.
The game does give you various power-ups – weapons, abilities, and costumes – to help you along. And one of the merchants you meet is a doctor who can prescribe you various pills that give certain bonuses – for a price. One other bonus you can pick up comes in the form of different skills. You have Wits, Dexterity, Power, and Defence. I know that your Wits mean you can open certain chests, but the others…I never really figured out their worth. But you can get a +1 to any skill when you complete certain side quests. And, depending on your build, you’ll soon have a well-rounded little detective solving things.
Draw a Line Here
I touched on audio briefly above, but there is a bit more to it. First and foremost, the musical score to Paper Cut Mansion really fits the atmosphere the game tries to present. Whilst it’s billed as a horror rogue-like, it’s just as much a mystery-thriller. And the tempo and melodies flow nicely, keeping you nicely on edge.
And then the ghost comes. Fuck, he’s a bell-end. Like, genuinely, I hate him. He’s on the screen for, at most, a minute when you encounter him. But he can easily throw you off your game (no pun intended). And he’s just…there. You can’t attack him, as I mentioned above, but all you wanna do is smack the shoite out of him and his stupid shrill scream that he does. And the music becomes so ominous. Like, it fills you with genuine dread the first time. So, in that regards hats off to the developers.
Oh, and then there’s my favourite bit of music; the game room. It’s all kinds of jazz and sleazy casino rolled into one. I dig that funky tune, momma.
Make That Fold There
Whilst we’re also on audio, I have to talk about the voice acting. There isn’t a massive amount present throughout the whole game, but there is always one voice you can count on. That dog…god…guide, he’s there. He’ll always offer you a nice tip, a bit of a clue, or just a bit of moral support when you’ve taken too much damage. And I love his voice. It’s so soothing. Honestly, he’s possibly my favourite part of the entire game.
Other characters have a few, keywords they utter during dialogue – I say “dialogue”, I actually mean text boxes that appear. The NPCs say, maybe, two words from their text box. Not much to go on really. But, I’m not really bothered by them, so it’s all good in my hood.
The only other bit of audio I should talk about is the corny little song that plays in between each floor. It directly tells you a bit more about Toby and his life, and it sounds like something out of The Nightmare Before Christmas in terms of its delivery. If you give it a listen, you’ll see what I mean.
Straighten That Out
Paper Cut Mansion will instantly catch your eye with its wonderfully unique aesthetic. It’s all made out of cardboard! Seriously, the whole game, everything in it, is made from cardboard. It’s great, it’s like playing with cheap toys or something. I love it.
The colours are often muted, apart from wherever the dimensional portals are. Then the colours bleed and pulsate with purple or red or blue. It’s eerie. It’s unnerving. And it’s wonderfully suited.
Add a Little Crimp Here
Sadly, it isn’t all sunshine and cardboard boxes. Paper Cut Mansion does have a few bugs here and there – and I’m not talking about the green butterfly that guides you to hidden treasures. No, there are a few glitchy parts to the game that, whilst not a common occurrence, did completely ruin my run once or twice.
The biggest one, though this could also have been a me issue is where I somehow managed to roll through a blockage in the casino room. Not sure if I should have even been able to do that, but I sure as hell couldn’t roll back out the same way. So, yeah, boo on me for trying to cheat, I guess and boo on the game for allowing it to happen.
Oh, and I’ve seen people online complain about the difficulty present. I, for one, didn’t really find any really difficult parts (other than that damn final boss), but it is a well-known genre convention with roguelikes. So, I don’t think I’d put it down as a criticism, it is probably more of a “watch out, it can get spicy”.
And One Last Unravel…
Ultimately, Paper Cut Mansion is a helluva-good little romp. It isn’t too serious that you have to plough hours and hours of your life into it. In fact, once you’ve got some good equipment and know what to do, you can probably do a full run in around an hour and a half/two hours. But, as with all roguelikes, the grind is real. Therefore, I can’t really give a decent estimation of how long it’d take to beat. It depends on if you count each failed attempt towards the ultimate playtime. In which case, I probably racked up around 20 or so hours.
If you don’t want to go into a game where you, probably, will have to die multiple times to make any progress, then it isn’t for you. Likewise, if you’re wanting a good horror title, this won’t scratch that itch either. If, however, you are a fan of quaint indie titles with a clear and well-thought-out design in place, then you might wanna give this a crack. Ditto if you’re a fan of the aesthetics of Paper Mario. In fact, it’s kind of like a Paper Mario: Luigi’s Mansion. Holy fuck, that’s the whole point, isn’t it?
On that bombshell, I give Paper Cut Mansion a 7.5/10. It isn’t an amazing game by any stretch of the imagination, but for a pick-up-and-play title, it’ll see you right. Plus, the dog. He’s great. Two points alone just for him!
(I Don’t Know What Origami Monstrosity the Other Headings Were Trying to Get You to Do. Don’t Follow Their Instructions. I Don’t Know What I’m Doing. Send Help!)
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Paper Cut Mansion Review
- Overall - 7.5/107.5/10
Paper Cut Mansion is a quaint, unique action-horror-roguelike title with a clean look and gimmick. The aesthetics alone should be enough to make you want to give this game a try. +
- Amazingly crafted world
- Unique aesthetic throughout
- Good take on an over-populated genre
- Wonderful ideas
- Decent gameplay
- So-so voice acting for the most part
- Some difficult areas might take entertainment away for many
- Death can come quite quickly and from out of nowhere
ABG’s Senior Editor (News), YouTube content creator/streamer.