By Angela Hinck / February 13th, 2015
What happens when you mix classic literature, old-school brawling, and some gravity-twisting tricks? The answer is Paperbound. Two to four players can take each other on in a variety of stages inspired by various stories like Dante’s Inferno and Journey to the Center of the Earth. But does that mean that the gameplay is necessarily old and stodgy as a dusty old library? No, and I am ashamed of your lack of respect for books. (The dust just adds character, by the way.)
There are actually five different sets of book-inspired levels to choose from, and within each “book” there are several different stages that vary in difficulty and function. Some feature simple platforms, while others feature moving parts, permeable walls, and destructive elements to keep fighters on their toes. Despite the simple design, the levels are full of clever functions and surprising details. The more I explored what the stages had to offer, the more impressed I was. The amount of visual design does differ a lot though, meaning some of the environments are really detailed while others are very simple.
The individual fighters you can choose from don’t have unique moves, but there are a lot of cool designs to choose from. You have your basic fighters, fighters based off of the same books as the fighting stages, and some modern nods to more current “stories”- by which I mean video games. Books aren’t the only medium that can brag good storytelling, which Paperbound reminds us of by letting players choose characters like Juan from Guacamelee and Captain Viridian from VVVVVV. They might not have any signature moves, but that’s not where the battle mechanics were meant to shine anyway.
So where were they meant to shine? Within the basic mechanics themselves. Players are armed with ink bombs, weapons for bashing (which do vary in design per character), scissors for throwing like ninja stars, and the most important of them all: the ability to change your character’s relationship with gravity. You can be in mid-jump, decide that you want to fall up to the ceiling instead of down to the ground, and make it happen with the push of a button. Imagine the chaos this would create in a four-person battle, along with the ability to block with your weapon and throw projectiles from a distance, players going every which way while phasing through the walls to the other side of the battlefield Portal-style (which is in fact a feature one of the stages has).
The controls are pretty responsive (note: I played the game with an Xbox 360 controller on a PC), which is great for how fast paced a game like this can get. On top of Classic Versus mode, there’s also Long Live the King and Survival modes. If you feel like ganging up on one another, all of these can be played with teams, along with a Capture the Quill mode. Obviously there’s a lot to offer here, and I can promise you that you’ll spend hours at this game with a group of friends and never get bored of it.
Paperbound is due to be released on Steam and PlayStation 4 sometime next month. The only thing keeping me from giving you all a full review now is my lack of access to opponents (and not because of my fearful reputation as a brawler; I literally have no one around to play local multiplayer with), but stay tuned over the coming months for a more in-depth look at how this game plays. This is definitely a game to watch if you’re looking for the next fun multiplayer title.