After last week’s emotional intensity with playing Life is Strange 2 on the Nintendo Switch, I wanted something a tad lighter, so I opted for Papetura, which proved both to be exactly what I wanted and also heavier than I expected. Straddling the line between a puzzle platformer and a point and click story game, Papetura explores not only the nature of paper but also of sacrifice.
The game’s name derives from a combination of the two characters’ names. You control Pape, a creature made entirely from scrolls of paper, and you encounter and befriend Tura, a magical creature for whom you must care. You both navigate gorgeously designed set-pieces in order to find and stop the source of the fire that threatens to destroy the paper world in which you both live.
Papetura, as the name implies, is a title that involves paper. Everything from the creatures to the elements of the world itself is made of it. That is, of course, why fire is such a danger to its paper filled world. You will encounter monsters throughout your journey, but don’t be quick to assume that these are enemies. There is, in all honesty, only one true enemy, and Papetura introduces you to it very, very early, as that enemy has locked Pape inside some sort of prison. I don’t think it’s an inappropriate spoiler to say that Pape brings light into the dark prison in order to escape this first puzzle, and that metaphor sets the tone for the entire game.
Visually, Papetura is simply beautiful, even on my tiny Switch screen. The devs clearly spent a tremendous amount of time getting to know paper. They’ve replicated not only how paper creases but also how light bounces off of the different surfaces created by those folds. You wouldn’t expect that to be lovely, but it really, really is.
Additionally, though there is no dialogue included, the background audio serves as a wonderful accompaniment, exploring the usual range from peaceful and tranquil to a cacophony of sound. I particularly enjoyed that there isn’t really a lot of music per se. The aural experience of the game is mostly comprised of the noises from the world, be it from your paddle hitting water to bugs buzzing around the environment. Granted, some of the odd grunts used in lieu of speech aren’t pleasing to the ear, but overall, the sound is well designed and flows with Papetura’s atmosphere.
The devs also gave real thought to how to give the sense of an inhabited world. There are plenty of creatures that occupy the same space as Pape and Tura, and they have all the trappings of life. You pass by dwellings with chairs, tables, and light emanating from within. Light plays a crucial role in Papetura as Pape and Tura’s world is mostly shrouded in shadow, so the game illuminates targets such as keys in order to give you a sense of what your ultimate goal in a room actually is. Furthermore, when in doubt, use Tura’s projectiles to bring light to a problem.
In terms of gameplay, Papetura is very short and can be completed within a span of two hours at the outside. The puzzles aren’t exactly groundbreaking, but you will find that you’ll need to become accustomed to the visual language of the title. Fortunately, at two hours, an hour if you’re good at aiming, the puzzles won’t become tiresome.
Papetura does employ larger set-piece puzzles and miniature puzzles that may contribute to the solution of the larger puzzle, so be on the lookout for those. If you get entirely stuck, you can ask Tura for a hint.
Papetura is brief in duration and should appeal to those looking for either a puzzle or point and click adventure game. The real challenge more often than not is making sure you aim Tura’s projectiles appropriately, and there is a guide that appears, making it more a question of thinking your way through the puzzles than with an ability to perfect the jump.
The story feels complete, and given the beautiful visuals, $10.00 for the Switch version seems reasonable to me. There won’t be much replayability, however, and other versions of the game aren’t loaded with achievements. If you’re an achievement hunter, you’re probably not going to enjoy this. If you’re looking for a title with which to relax without having to sink a lifetime into it, then Papetura may be for you.
Stray Thoughts From Behind the Keyboard
- I’ll admit that the symbolism can get pretty heavy-handed, but getting the chance to help some of the creatures feels good enough to distract from that.
- Gentle readers, I think the devs really did build some of the background elements out of paper before animating them. A quick look at Steam indicates that they did!
- Don’t forget that while fire can be destructive, it can also bring light and warmth.