It might not be Halloween anymore, but there’s always room for more spooky games, especially ones that younger gamers can also enjoy. Luigi’s Mansion 3 is a huge hit on the Nintendo Switch, and we all know how much Nintendo fans love the paper aesthetic, so a cute little title like Paper Cut Mansion neatly slips into both demographics while also doing something a bit different.
An action rogue-like with some dimension-hopping twists, Paper Cut Mansion feels much more Tim Burton-esque than Luigi’s Mansion. Taking place in a large gnarly house that looks straight out of a pop-up book; every corridor, character, and piece of furniture looks hand drawn and folded out of physical card, giving everything a charming aesthetic that lends the gameplay a whole heap of spooky vibes.
Everything kicks off when your character Toby, a police detective, gets lost in the woods. Next thing you know, they wake up in Paper Cut Mansion without their memories but surrounded by the undead, skeletons, spectral beings, and lawyers. It’s up to you to piece together what happened, find the evidence needed to regain your memories, and finally escape. Finding your way around the mansion is a mixture of twin-stick gun combat, and also some interesting puzzle-solving elements.
Let’s start with puzzles because when you first walk through the house, you’ll notice that a small green moth is accompanying you and will plant itself on a wall and let out a shrill little beep if there’s something of interest in the room. This can be secrets, money, or puzzles yet to be solved, but keep an eye on your little bug if you hope to get anywhere. When you investigate items, you pick up pieces of furniture or other interactive objects and spin them around in 3D like a Super Smash Bros trophy.
This is a fun way to actually play with things, and while most of the time you pull open drawers to find some coins, or discover cash strapped around the back of an old clock, occasionally you find small puzzle boxes or similar tests that demand you mess around with these objects and see how they interact with the world. Sliding tile puzzles, combination locks, and much more, there are many puzzles tucked away and figuring out how they apply to the levels themselves is a joy and a modest challenge, if a little cumbersome with the way you rotate them in 3D space.
Now, once you open a few doors and explore some of the mansion, you find a few different dimensions are waiting for you and to progress anywhere you have to meet the demands of the NPCs. This is where combat comes in, and a fairly fun arsenal of weapons is waiting for you. In keeping with the spooky denizens of Paper Cut Mansion, the enemies are all zombies, skeletons, and other undead creatures, shambling through the many rooms and just aching to fold you up.
Your general weapon is a big ‘ol boomstick, and a shotgun will do most of the work, but as you explore and do tasks for NPCs, you also unlock cards with extra abilities, with three different slots ready and waiting to be filled. In addition, there are explosives, traps, and even a little drone, and these all supplement the main action nicely without ever overwhelming you. While there are a few things to play around with, there really should be more variety to the main weapons, and the game’s difficulty takes a real sharp turn very early, so you’re quickly doing a lot of the same actions on repeat.
Another key element is the fact that you have three different health bars split between the three main dimensions you explore. You can hop between these pretty freely, and as you down more foes and explore the mansion, more avenues and shortcuts open up their way to you. One issue here is that things get very confusing, very quickly. It’s quite difficult to get your bearings, but you need to explore each area to find pieces of evidence. These are one of the things that carry over between runs, and they help Toby to figure out exactly what is going on in this haunted house.
I wish exploring was a bit more fun, but as well as a limited arsenal, movement feels really sluggish, and there’s no easy way to flit around the map. The areas are also fairly similar, even between dimensions, so the gameplay gets repetitive really fast. If you can battle through that, there are some fun rewards to be found like cosmetics and different unlockables, but I couldn’t really push myself to do any of that, and the few rewards I did get didn’t change things up much either.
The main draw of Paper Cut Mansion is the visuals, and luckily these are great. If you want a spooky game and can get through the slightly boring gameplay, this house is gorgeous, the characters are great, and there’s some genuinely funny dialogue tucked away. However, I think this aesthetic and story suit a different type of game, as the strong design is undone by the fact you see so much of it over and over.
The game also feels a little stiff on Nintendo Switch, with a slightly wobbly framerate, especially when there are complex lighting effects like when Toby uses a torch. It all looks great in stills, but in motion, it can feel a little erratic, and slowdown may also contribute to the gameplay feeling so slow for me. There’s nothing game-breaking, but the title clearly struggles to reach a consistent framerate on Switch, and it certainly didn’t assist in making me want to play through the repetitive gameplay.
If you love the rogue-like genre and want to switch off your brain and just blast away, then you might love Paper Cut Mansion. It has a lot going for it, with great visual design, stellar audio, and a few neat puzzles as you explore the house. But I found myself bored with the cardboard-stiff gameplay, and wish they had folded a few more ideas into the mix. It’s not quite as bad as A3 or A4, but there are much better rogue-like games out there.
Paper Cut Mansion review
A charming aesthetic and a few fun ideas are held back by repetitive gameplay and some performance issues. Anyone wanting to play something spooky might get their kicks, but there are much better rogue-likes for anyone who wants to enjoy some action.