Paper Dolls: Original Review

Developed by Beijing Litchi Culture Media Co., Ltd.
Published by Winking Entertainment
Reviewed on PlayStation 4 Pro (also available on Xbox One and PC)

Have you ever rented a cheesy low budget horror film just for the hell of it? To see if it’s so bad its good? Where even if the movie is terrible, it has those memorable scenes that were actually very entertaining. But then you look back and was like… that was “OK I guess.” Well that’s Paper Dolls: Original in a nutshell, a game that takes one step forward and two steps back.

Paper Dolls: Original is a first person horror game that takes place in the Chinese manor of the Qing dynasty where you, some random guy, ends up after a car accident. You wake up realizing your daughter, who was also in the car, is missing and you search the house looking for her. There’s not much going for the story. The reasoning behind your character entering this manor makes absolutely no sense. But let’s excuse that fact for the moment. The overall story, despite having some interesting lore while exploring, is actually very simplistic and is not thrilling at all.

While exploring this mansion you will find passages and diaries of the past residents which can make things a bit more interesting. But most of the time they’re very useless facts and just seem to not fit. Most of these will just talk about the person’s likes and dislikes. Occasionally you get a useful file that explains more on what actually happened in the manor for it to have become haunted the way it is.

Speaking of haunted, you will encounter spooky ghosts that will attack you and more then often kill you in one hit. So what do you do? You run and hide. The ghost are technically invincible. Shortly into the game you will receive an item that will let you “seal” the ghost inside paper doll likenesses of the ghosts. This is done doing a small quick time event. Once you seal a ghost, you can then proceed through the area the ghost was “haunting” to continue the game. Overall it is a very simple system, and the house itself is incredibly small, so you will be revisiting areas over and over again.  Sometimes you’ll encounter something new in an area you visited previously.

The other major factor in this game are the puzzles. In typical horror game fashion similar to Resident Evil and Silent Hill, you will encounter many puzzles that will either require your wit or just a key to proceed. Now some of these puzzles are simple and may seem very familiar to horror game veterans…while a few are just insanely difficult. Even after getting every file in the game which should provide all the hints you need, I have been stumped on a puzzle or two. I wasted countless minute’s randomly moving things around and setting up items hoping I would just “get it.” I love challenging puzzles but these couple were no fun at all.

You might be asking yourself, “What makes this game Original?” Paper Dolls originally came out last year as a VR game for both PC and PSVR. So technically the original game was a VR game, I presume the publishers called this “Original” because it plays by traditional means, not VR. After completing this short game, I can definitely see it. This game feels more like a small VR experience then a full-fledged game. The game runs insanely slow; you barely move. The running in the game lasts for nearly two steps and then stops. There’s no type of indicator so you have no idea when you can run again. Sometimes it’s seconds… sometimes it’s a minute.

You can tell the developers designed the controls and movement system to help prevent VR sickness and these do NOT translate well when playing with a controller. Although the mansion is so small and you can save easily by getting to the save point, when you die it’s a pain just to walk back to where you were. On top of the movement issues, the in game map is badly designed and you will have to memorize the house to progress.

The game does look better than many VR games I have played, so graphically it game holds up on its own. The highly detailed environments and graphics are very reminiscent of Resident Evil VII. The lighting is great and the house is in complete darkness except when you’re using your flashlight, but slowly you will light candles to help illuminate the house and see how pretty the game can be. My favorite graphical feature are the ghosts themselves. Instead of resembling normal humans, monsters or zombies, they incorporate the look of their paper doll counter parts. This adds a different type of eeriness to the game. These designs are fantastic and help bring this fairly creepy world to life.

The sound design for the most part is great. Although you will constantly hear the same sound effect for doors opening which can get a little annoying, the sounds the ghosts make when walking far off in the distance, when they’re closing in, or when wailing sounds fantastic. The voice acting is another story. This is a plus or negative for some. The voice acting is so bad. I have truly not heard voice acting this bad since early PlayStation 2 era. The voice work and even the way they are portrayed is very similar to the original Fatal Frame on the PS2 and XBOX. Now some people like some cheese, others don’t. Nowadays, I rather have top notch voice acting or in this game’s case the option to play with Chinese voices. The PC version has this option, but the PS4 version can’t be changed without also changing all the text in the game.

Paper Dolls: Original does a couple things right, but many more things wrong. While the graphics and atmosphere are great, the overall gameplay is sluggish and has too many cheap kills. I can see this being a far better experience in VR but as a standalone software title it’s lacking more than it should. It’s a decent short experience, but you will need patience to survive this horror.

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