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Paper Trail review - a folding good time

Paper Trail offers a refreshing puzzle game to wrap your head around while unfolding a story about leaving home for the first time.

Paper Trail review - two characters sitting in a house and outside in a field

Our Verdict

Paper Trail provides a refreshing addition to the puzzle game genre, giving us head-scratching levels to work through while following the story of a young girl leaving home for the first time. While the puzzles might not be to everyone's taste, it's a lovely little entry to the Switch's library.

As soon as I saw Paper Trail in 2022’s Wholesome Direct, and then in the flesh at WASD in 2023, I knew I needed to play it. Here we are a year later and I’ve got my wish, and had a good play around with the indie puzzle game.

Paper Trail comes from Newfangled Games, a BAFTA-winning team of three with plenty of experience under its belt. Their papery indie game was the winner of the Indie Showcase at Develop in 2022, and the Most Innovative Game at IndieX among plenty of other awards – and it’s not hard to see why.

Paper Trail, as the name suggests, involves paper. It’s a top-down indie game where you lead Paige (haha, like a page? Get it?) out into the world after she decides to leave home. The key is, that to get her from A to B, you must fold corners and sides of the malleable screen to create paths and get around obstacles.

I love this concept. I’ve not seen anything like it before, especially with such a cute art style that brings in so many different moods to areas like a swamp, forests, villages, and snow-covered towns.

Paper Trail review - a character talking while fishing in a stream

The levels are nice and varied across the different locations and introduce mechanics like connecting symbols together, moving a boulder around and out of your way, matching up two dice of the same number, and letting energy flow to different receptacles. You meet people along your way, too, brimming with witty and memorable dialogue.

Now, the issue is – and this isn’t an issue with the game itself – that it’s a puzzle game. We all know that some people don’t gel with certain puzzles, and some other reviews reflect this, showing different people’s experiences with the game.

I tend to get overwhelmed when I can’t figure something out easily, and I got rather stuck in some of the levels here. That is not to say the game is bad at all – it’s absolutely the opposite, I just don’t have the right problem-solving skills for some of the probably fairly obvious answers. Anyway, that’s my own irritating problem to deal with.

If you know that you like figuring things out and having a lot of ‘hmm’ moments before a breakthrough, you’re probably going to love Paper Trail. There is a hint screen that shows you the way to fold the page to solve the puzzles and continue your journey that some of us (me) can use when stuck (which is most of the time).

Paper Trail review - the hint screen showing how to fold the page

You’re looking at about ten hours to fully beat Paper Trail and fold every last inch of parchmenty screen that you can while collecting origami pieces scattered through the world, and it is a wonderful experience. It also runs perfectly well on Switch with quick loading times and a control scheme that mostly makes sense.

I say mostly as you grab the page with ZR or ZL and then move it with the right thumbstick, but not the left – the left is reserved for controlling Paige. This mechanic is fine and allows you to wiggle your way through puzzles while manipulating the page and Paige, but I kept going to use the left stick and wondering why my paper wasn’t trailing. Again, not a problem, just a silly ol’ me issue.

If you’re after a brain-tickling puzzle game, I highly recommend Paper Trail – even just for its art style alone, honestly. While it may not gel with my way of thinking, it’s still an excellent addition to any indie game library.