I’ll give publisher Winking Entertainment some credit, they certainly support PlayStation VR well with the abundance of titles they release on the platform. Following on from the recently released Drone Striker and Unearthing Mars 2, they’re back with a new first-person horror title: Paper Dolls.
Rather than offering a sci-fi adventure or a shooting escapade though, this time you’re put in the shoes of a man who ends knocked out following a car crash whilst travelling with his daughter. Of course, you wake up to find her missing… sounds familiar, right? Well, you won’t be exploring a mysterious foggy town in order to find her in Paper Dolls, but rather an old abandoned house that’s full of frights, ghastly sights and puzzles to solve.
One thing that’ll stand out immediately to anyone playing Paper Dolls is that the controls are bloody weird. You can either use two Move controllers or the DualShock, whilst there’s free locomotion in place which is always a plus. However, you take steps forward by pressing the shoulder buttons, with each one representing a foot. This means alternating presses of the two buttons constantly just to move forward – yes, it’s as awkward as it sounds.
Now you will get used to it the more you play the game, but it never stops feeling awkward, slow, and clumsy when compared to the controls in other PlayStation VR titles that offer free locomotion. The worst part is that they’re compulsory, meaning you can’t switch to more convenient methods if you find them frustrating (which I’m sure most players will). I just don’t understand why the developer went down this route with the game’s controls and whilst I can appreciate that they’ve tried to do something different, the fact that it’s the only option in place just felt a little baffling.
The core gameplay experience involves exploring the house and solving the many puzzles littered around it. They actually go hand-in-hand – a lot of the puzzles involve finding items in the environment, so exploring every nook and cranny is pretty much essential to progress.
The puzzles themselves could be a bit of a mixed bag. There were some that offered a sense of ingenuity and actually made the player think a bit, but most just required finding a specific item. Then there were a few that just felt so obtuse that I’m not fully sure how I actually solved them, with the game seemingly progressing with little interaction on my end. I do think that there was a bit too much of a focus on simply finding items though. I mean, I’m not against exploration (especially in a scary house that’s full of frights), but the mixture of the clumsy controls and the darkness of the environment made simply finding the things hidden around me an arduous task at times.
Given that Paper Dolls is a horror title, you can expect plenty of scares as you explore the house. You’ve got horrendous sights (nothing like a good old beheaded body to welcome you to the game, right?), jump-scares, and plenty of environmental frights on show as you work through each puzzle. Then there’s the ghosts, who won’t only scare you with their appearance but can actually cause you harm in-game too.
The atmosphere itself is pretty eerie too thanks to the creepy sounds you’ll hear all around you, with the player never quite knowing what might be there in the room with them. I don’t think that it’s as unnerving a virtual reality experience as the likes of Resident Evil 7 or Paranormal Activity, but it was definitely tense exploring Paper Dolls’ fear-provoking environment.
One of Paper Dolls’ obvious issues is that it doesn’t offer the player a lot of guidance – you’re immediately thrown in the deep end from the start of the game, with the combination of darkness and a lack of direction making for an awkward opening hour. It does get better as you figure out its mechanics, but there’s no denying that there’ll be plenty of moments where you’ll be left confused as to what’s actually going on.
Then there’s the inventory system which is clunky and feels uncomfortable to explore in virtual reality. I’m all up for having your items placed in front of you and easily accessible, but when they’re presented in giant floaty boxes that are a little bit too close for comfort, it just feels a little awkward. It’s just another of the many imperfections you’ll find throughout Paper Dolls and one of the things that make other horror titles on PlayStation VR a bit easier to recommend.
I’d be remiss not to mention the game’s length though, which should easily last most players over ten hours. Paper Dolls might not be the most refined title available on PlayStation VR, but it does at least offer a meaty experience that gives plenty of bang for your buck.
Developer: Beijing Litchi Culture Media
Publisher: Winking Entertainment
Platform(s): PlayStation VR (Reviewed), HTC Vive, Oculus Rift