Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Paperbound (PS4) Review

Paperbound has been recently released on the PS4 and Steam, and I had a chance to check it out.  At first I played a bit of single player against some bots, but I made sure to try a little bit of the multiplayer as well.

Paperbound is a versus brawler, and as such, has 2-4 combatants in a small arena.  You have a basic sword attack, one pair of scissors that you can throw (and pick up if you miss), and an ink bomb.  Getting hit with any of these will kill you, so best to keep moving and attacking.  The scissors represent a ranged attack, but with only one shot, you had better make it count.  If you stand still to try and line up the shot, you will likely be killed.  With skilled timing, hitting the scissors with your sword will reflect it back.  Also, you can pick up a pair of scissors that somebody missed with to replenish yours.

The ink bomb is a little more forgiving, since it has an area of effect.  However, it is just as easy to catch yourself in the explosion if you aren't careful.  Sadly, I've caught myself with it a few times.  It will also obey gravity, which makes it behave in unexpected ways if you aren't paying attention.  With up to four people running around, swinging and throwing, it can get very chaotic.  That's the appeal of the game- running around, trying to kill while not being killed yourself.  Games can be over in an instant, since death can come quickly.  You can die especially quick if you spawn near the AI.  Since they are instantly aware of you, and it takes you a second or two to figure out where you are and orient yourself, they can take advantage of it for an easy point.

To add an interesting twist, the game also features a gravity mechanic.  Pressing a button will allow you to invert your gravity.  It definitely makes for a more interesting match, but boy is it confusing.  This does make most levels circular in nature, so you can run up walls and on the ceiling with minimal effort.  It can be very tough to figure out how to land on certain ledges, which is only really problematic in the stages with traps and hazards.  Otherwise, it makes playing much more chaotic, and sometimes more fun.  Just be aware that others, especially the computer, might adjust quicker to the sudden shifts and hold the advantage... so use it with caution!

Thankfully, the game has bots, so if you don't have four people to play it with, you can fill out the ranks with the AI.  Sadly, the game is local (or couch) multiplayer only.  It's a curious choice, since there's very little reason to play it by yourself.  If you want to play it with your friends, which is really the only way, then they all have to be in the same room.  While I'm a huge proponent of local co-op, Paperbound really feels like it needed online as well.  I won't pretend to know the logistics of if it was possible to add it, but it is a curious omission regardless.

There is a good selection of stages to fight in, some with traps and others without.  Strangely, the last few have to be unlocked.  You only have to play a few matches to get them, so it just seems strange to lock them at all.  There's also several characters to choose from.  They look unique, but don't really have any other differences.  So just pick the one you like, choose a color you like and fight away.  There are free for all and team matches in the standard deathmatch and king of the hill.  They even added a unique win mechanic, where even if you have enough points to win, you have to get to the tear in the page to actually be the victor.  It's an interesting twist that can sway a close game... or make it easier to punish the winner.  It's not over until it's actually over!

I can see the appeal of Paperbound.  If you have a group of friends over to the play a game, it would be a great way to spend an evening.  There's not really enough modes or differences in the stages and characters to warrant continued play, though.  If you don't have a few people to play with at your house, or aren't into versus combat, then Paperbound isn't right for you.  But, if you have some buddies over and are looking for a wild and chaotic game, then Paperbound just might be a game for you to try.

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