Dissident Logic provided Gamnesia with two copies of Paperbound for review.
If you’re a fan of Super Smash Bros. or Super Mario Galaxy, you may be interested to see how the core ideas of each game collide in a indie game called Paperbound.
Paperbound is a unique 2D brawler where players can battle it out in some of the most famous locales from literature like Journey to the Center of the Earth, Inferno, and more. All players appear on the same screen with a fixed camera that lets you see the entire stage. From here, players can run along walls and ceilings, as well as several floating platforms with their own centers of gravity in a skirmish that’s equal parts Inception and Super Mario Galaxy. There are several different modes from which players can choose to alter the victory conditions of a match, but the core premise is a constant: kill your friends as many times as possible.
Players have four main weapons at their disposal to take down their enemies: a swinging sword for melee attacks, scissors that they can throw in a straight line until it hits a wall or lands a kill, and an ink grenade whose blast radius can kill multiple opponents at once. Navigating your way across the terrain and figuring out the best weapon for a given situation is already a blast in and of itself, but one mechanic ties to whole game together on a new level of fun: gravity.
In Paperbound, each player can invert gravity for his or her own character, which lets you fly from one side of the screen to another at the simple press of a button. It’s a quick and easy motion that introduces all kinds of strategic complexities which make Paperbound so thrilling, and once you’ve mastered flipping gravity once, you can start to flip it back and forth to fake out your opponents in incredible ways.
Each of these combat mechanics are each satisfying in their own right, but the interplay between them is what makes Paperbound so damned fun. None of them require more than a single button press, and the characters’ swift movements allow apt players to pull off tons of successful kills and run away before their opponents even realize they’ve died. And trust me, there is nothing more satisfying than swooping in on your friends, chopping their heads off in the blink of an eye, flying away as giddy as ever, and then doing it all over again.
Paperbound is best suited for multiplayer matches, when you have friends over for a visit—and the more players you have, the more gleefully frenetic the game becomes. Unfortunately, the same magic just isn’t possible alone, and Paperbound has no substantial content for single-player play. That’s not to say it would be better off with some sort of campaign mode, as the heart of Paperbound makes it an inherently multiplayer game. The trailer, in fact, calls it "smashey-smashey fun for four players in the same room." But they have given CPU opponents an AI that adjusts to your skill level, so as to better accommodate players with any amount of experience. It would be nice, however, to also have the option to adjust their difficulty levels manually, so as to better recreate the gameplay experience of a real multiplayer match for anyone who might want to train in private and then get their friends mad jellin' on these gnarly new Paperbound skillz.
The Verdict: Boundless Fun
It’s amazing how long Paperbound stays so fun and exciting with such simple gameplay mechanics, but that’s a testament to how well they’ve been woven together. I’d like to see Dan Holbert and the rest of the team at Dissident Logic keep supporting Paperbound down the road with more characters and a greater number of navigable stages, but even now, you’d be hard pressed to find as much pure fun from such a simple game as this one.
Paperbound launches today on both Steam and PlayStation 4.