Paper Trail Is a Delightful Little Puzzle Game [Review]

Over the last year, I’ve spent a lot of time digging into beautiful little puzzle games that I missed the first time around, such as Gris. So when I found out about Paper Trail, I knew that it was a game I wanted to pick up and give a try, and I wasn’t disappointed.

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Paper Trail Is a Nice Little Character Study

Developed by Newfangled Games, Paper Trail casts players as Paige, a young woman who leaves home to go to university in a nearby city. On her trip, she traverses several unique and beautiful environments with help from her ability to essentially fold time and space, like paper, and players learn more about a major tragedy in her past.

I liked the writing in Paper Trail. I hesitate to call the game cozy, because it does deal with some rather serious themes, but the plot is relatively airy. You’re not going on a journey to save the world or in any way alter it. Paige is going to university. Along the way, you learn about who she is, and what’s driving her to make a change in her life. It’s a nice little character study, and I found it pretty refreshing. Those sorts of more character-centric stories are something I’ve noticed popping up in a lot of the best puzzle games, and I’m glad Paper Trial followed suit in that way.

I can definitely see people being disappointed that Paper Trail doesn’t do more with some of its central plot threads, opting instead for something simpler and more personal. However, it’s best to understand the game as something of a short story. Paper Trail is a snippet from a person’s life, and that’s very refreshing.

Paper Trail Looks & Sounds Beautiful

Paper Trail is beautiful. Flat out. The aesthetic is an incredible little mishmash of watercolor, printmaking, and video game art that fits perfectly with the core conceit of folding the world like paper. Every environment feels unique, and Paper Trail is just such a treat for the eyes.

The music and sound design are also really excellent. In general, Paper Trail‘s music is chill. It does a great job of setting the stage and making environments feel distinct. There’s also an excellent song that plays over the end credits.

Also, listen. I need to tell you about the voice acting, because it’s so funny. In Paper Trail, everyone except Paige talks kind of like a muted trumpet. It’s an odd choice in the grand scheme of the game — though I understand that voice actors are expensive — but it’s one that made me smile a little each time I interacted with someone. It’s kind of bizarre, and I loved that about it.

Paper Trail Is Fun, But a Bit Easy

Mechanically, Paper Trail is relatively simple. Each area that Paige passes through on her journey has a frontside and a backside, and you can fold the sides and corners to create new paths to get yourself to a level’s exit. Things get increasingly complicated as the game goes on, though, and the title introduces players to a lot of different new mechanics as they go, such as sliding platforms, statues, lasers, and a bunch of other things. One of the things that Paper Trail does best is carry those new mechanics forward. New levels always feel iterative, teaching you about their own special rules and then asking you to integrate them with what you’ve learned in the past. That makes for some really satisfying puzzle solving.

Overall, though, I didn’t find Paper Trail specifically very hard. Some puzzles were definitely more difficult than others, but more often than not, my struggles were due almost entirely to overthinking a challenge. Still, I found the “ah-ha!” moments where I got the right solution to a puzzle to be immensely satisfying.

In addition to trying to get to the exit of an area, different Paper Trail levels have origami that the player can pick up. These are often a bit more challenging to get, so I found that they did help to keep the game from feeling too simple during the longer stretches where I was able to more intuitively finish a level.

The Game Is Pretty Short

Paper Trail is short, which I get. It’s an indie game developed by a small team. I’m not expecting some massive, epic experience. However, I beat the game in less than ten hours, which does mean it’s on the shorter end. While I’m satisfied with the plot and the puzzles overall, I do think that a few extra hours with Paige and some harder puzzles could have taken the game from good to truly great.

Paper Trail is a pretty game that, while not too difficult, is definitely worth checking out for fans of puzzle games.

A PlayStation 5 review code for Paper Trail was provided by the publisher. The game will release on May 21.

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Liam Nolan
Liam Nolan has been the Managing Editor at The Escapist since August 2023, during which time he's covered Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth, Starfield, and several other major releases. After getting his Master of Arts in English in 2016, he began writing about comics, television, movies, and video games, with his work appearing at such outlets as, CBR, and The Mary Sue. When he's not writing on pop culture, you can find Liam working on his creative projects or traveling. You can follow him on Twitter @LD_Nolan or on Bluesky