Paper Beast – A Well-Folded Reality
Getting my first PC VR headset has been an interesting affair so far. By having this screen strapped to my face, I get to see the worlds I’ve been playing in a different perspective, with differing amounts of interactivity. For the most part, I’ve only experienced some of the more violent or dark games that VR has to offer. So when I found out about Paper Beast, it looked so strange and different that I had to try it.
Paper Beast is an adventure puzzle game developed and published by Pixel Reef. Headed by the well-known Eric Chahi, there was no doubt you’re about to have a surreal experience when you press start.
A Strange Beginning
And I was completely on the mark. Literally within the first five seconds, you are dropped into a mini-game where you play with shapes while listening to Japanese rock music, all while psychedelic things happen. This is what you do when you wait for the game to happen, in-lore of course.
Then the visage drops, and you find yourself in a curtained room. Pulling these down reveal you to be underneath a majestic creature made entirely of paper in the middle of the desert.
That’s how Paper Beast begins. Considering the amount of wild things that happen throughout this entire campaign, which ran roughly two and a half hours, I won’t go farther than that in terms of story. But what Pixel Reef has here is an experience with themes of new life, conservation, and freedom.
With themes as wonderful as these, Paper Beast itself is rather breathtaking at times. It doesn’t have cutting-edge graphics, ray-tracing, or even good textures. What it does have is a world with gorgeous visuals; artistic in vision with a stunning execution. Sometimes you’ll look up in the sky and see strips of paper trailing around the skybox, adding a bit of flair to the rather dulltdull of the desert. It almost feels like a game by Dali.
In addition to this, the physics actually look pretty good, and don’t break my computer, even though it’s VR on a laptop. The water and paper physics work so well, with barely a hiccup in frames, that I am wondering just what kind of black magic Eric Chahi performed. Even the sand deforms in such an amazing way.
And these aren’t just for show. All of these are used within Paper Beast for the puzzles, which make full use of the VR to give you extra amounts of freedom. An example would be a puzzle pretty early in, where the paper animals are dying from dehydration, even though a spring is nearby. So, to get the water to them, you have to grab a part of a paper beast and use it to dig a path for the water to flow through, bringing the creatures back to life. The ideas and concepts behind every puzzle can differ wildly from the last, giving you new ways to use the game’s mechanics.
The creatures themselves, used in these puzzles, add an extra layer of beauty to this ecosystem. Though they aren’t exactly the brightest lightbulbs in the box, they can still get the job done, mostly with a little nudging. The sound design team did a rather stellar job, as each sound from these animals were strange, yet intriguing. It almost sounded like the noises of actual animals, but with an otherworldly twist to them.
And the music fits in well. As is usual for an adventure game based around exploration, the tracks you hear give you that feeling of wonder and excitement with discovery. Each song matches the tone, from the somber feelings of harder times, to the excitement of a parade; you’ll be brought through many emotions.
However, I can’t help but feel that there should’ve been more. Some mechanics and tools are only used for one puzzle, and are never seen again. While this does help keep things interesting and varied, I just wished there was more to play with. The sandbox mode, where you can reform and populate an area, you unlock when it’s all over can be a lot of fun, but it doesn’t scratch the itch I kept feeling when the credits began to roll.
Maybe Pixel Reef will release a way to make custom levels with puzzles involving the mechanics of the game.
Yet even without these, though, Paper Beast is a short experience, one I enjoyed heavily. Truly, this is one of the most beautiful VR experiences on PC right now. If you’re a VR enthusiast, or just want to support the brilliant mind of Eric Chahi, I would highly recommend picking up Paper Beast to give it a shot yourself. Otherwise, I would recommend a sale.
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Reviewed by Freelance 7 on PC. Game provided by Pixel Reef.