I was very excited when I saw that Paper Dolls: Original was coming to the PlayStation 4. It originally released as a VR title on both the PC and PSVR headsets last year, albeit with a few changes to make it more suitable for VR. Although I love the horror genre, I’ve only dabbled with the first-person ‘run and hide’ format recently, with games such as Home Sweet Home and Dollhouse. Personally, I’m more into games such as Resident Evil and Silent Hill, third-person survival horror games with a nice balance of puzzles, action and gore. However, I’ve seen gameplay from games such as Amnesia and Outlast, where the idea was to not fight but to hide from your foes, and it always intrigued me.
Naturally, when I saw that Paper Dolls: Original was releasing soon for all PS4 owners, it caught my eye. There’s something about Asian culture that can really amplify the horror experience, and with the screenshots I had seen provided by Beijing Litchi Culture Media Co. as well as YouTube clips of the original release on the PlayStation VR, I knew I needed to sink my teeth into this game and see how it compares to the original game.
It almost feels like there is a template for horror these days as the intro to Paper Dolls: Original felt like I’ve seen it before within many films and games. You play as Yang Ming-Yuan, a father that appears to suffer from depression. In the opening of the game, Yang is driving his daughter to her mother’s house and it would appear that while he is having deep mental thoughts, they get into a car accident. Upon waking up, Yang finds himself in a situation where he is no longer in a vehicle with his daughter, but rather in a large home from the Qing Dynasty. You are seemingly alone and you don’t know what’s going on…
Paper Dolls: Original is very interesting as it’s a game full of puzzles that are meant to stop you dead in your tracks. It offers you no direction as to what you are supposed to do next and despite finding a map at one point, you don’t actually get to keep it? Or maybe it was just that I never figured out how to use it? I know that fans of immersive games will love this level of realism as you explore the house for the first time, but personally speaking, with the size of the house and the massive amounts of backtracking, it’s very easy to get lost. Besides trying to avoid enemies, you will be on the lookout for hidden items that may be in a desk drawer, or in a bookshelf. You are always looking for items that can be used to advance to other areas.
Taking a look at the differences between the PSVR and PS4 versions (as they are two separate purchases with separate trophy lists and no toggle in-game to swap between them), there appear to be a few differences. Whereas the story and the outcome are the same as the VR version, some puzzles have been altered and the visuals have clearly been cleaned up to support higher resolutions over the PSVR headset. As I’ve not played the VR version myself, I can’t tell you exactly what’s changed, but the publisher has advised that there are differences – so people who owned the VR version and enjoyed it should get new challenges if they pick up this one too.
Depending on how fast you can solve the puzzles, or if you have played the game more than once, you may have a widely different experience with Paper Dolls: Original. According to what I have seen online and experienced myself, the game generally takes players about 8-9 hours to complete. If you know what you are doing though, the game can be over in about an hour and a half. I did alright for the first half of the game, I was sitting around 4 hours, but then I got to a puzzle that left me so stumped, I had to take to the internet for help. In that regard, I really feel like the developers really drop the ball in regards to giving you ANY kind of help or nudges in the right direction.
There is absolutely NO denying the beauty of Paper Dolls: Original. From the first time you’re attacked by a ghost, and you get an up-close look at their faces, to simply exploring a room and looking at the amount of detail of a desk and the surrounding objects, the higher resolution of the game being non-VR is stunning at times. However, it’s in the essential and mandatory exploration that I found a lot of frustration. The house is naturally very dark, despite the fact you’re given a flashlight at the beginning of the game. Even when setting the Brightness settings all the way up, and using the flashlight, I still found the game to be very dark and certain key objects quite difficult to make out!
However, I become accustomed to the gamma levels and managed to make my way through a decent chunk of the game until the main issue arose – I couldn’t see the ghostly apparitions until they were up close and I didn’t have time to run and hide. Who knows, perhaps this was the purpose as the jump scares are pretty good and I did get caught unaware a number of times thanks to the limited view. although, it could just be down to unfair lighting which, for the developers benefit, increased the surprise elements quite a bit.
I really wanted to like Paper Dolls: Original, but unfortunately, the things I don’t like about the game really dragged down my experience. If I may, I want to compare this game to a cake… All the ingredients are present to make a delicious birthday cake with yummy frosting and cream. The problem is that the directions were not followed correctly, so instead of a splendid cake, we ended up with a lopsided and deflated desert. Paper Dolls: Original is remarkable, in terms of its graphics, I just wish I could see them properly with or without the help of my low-wattage torch! Despite the lighting and difficulty of the puzzles though, when the enemies are up in your face they are terrifying, with the sounds building up suspense and terror perfectly!
However, the lack of help, in terms of directions, and the poor storytelling are bith very important key factors that were not done well and for that, it makes the game ok at best.