Clearly identifiable through its distinct art style, Paper Cut Manion is a spooky roguelite set in a cardboard mansion. You, the NPCs, the enemies and all the furniture are made of lovingly designed paper models. The object of the game is to figure out how and why you ended up at this creepy old house in a hand-crafted world.
You explore the house uncovering clues, which are collated in an evidence board you can review between runs. The map respawns randomly for every run. The goal each time is to find the talking door and convince it to admit you access to the gatekeeper, who will open the hatch to the next level.
There are three possible worlds you may spawn in, each with distinct features and enemies. You can jump between worlds through portals. The reptilian world is full of enemies you shoot with a rifle. The limbic system is freezing cold and requires you to light lamps while searching for memories. The neo cortex allows you to rummage through furniture, finding clues to puzzles that unlock doors to new areas.
On every run, the talking door will only open when you’ve completed the task in the world where you spawn. The gatekeeper will only open the hatch when you’ve completed the task in one other world. Sometimes there are clues as to what the gatekeeper will ask you to do, but it is not guaranteed.
You’ll meet NPCs who ask you to complete side quests for them, such as finding or destroying various items. These reward you with medals that boost one of your four stats, which you choose based on what will be best suited to your run. Fire power and defense will be better suited to aggressive runs through the reptile world, for instance, while wit will help you unlock chests.
When you’ve completed a quest once, the NPC will remember you on your next run so you’ll get the boost without having to repeat it. This helps to stop Paper Cut Mansion being too repetitive, which is a common pitfall for roguelites. However, there are some additional elements (such as unskippable dialogue that never changes) that could have more variation to keep the game feeling fresh.
There are collectibles scattered around that you retain between runs, such as cards that offer boons. You can equip up to three cards before starting a fresh attempt on the mansion and swap them out any time you find a better one.
The deeper you get into the mansion, the more dangerous it becomes, but the more powerful you can become and the closer you get to discovering what is really going on. The world gets more complex and interesting to explore. While it starts off in a typical spooky sprawling house, you go on to explore a restaurant, a casino, a speakeasy and all manner of exciting origami establishments.
The world is wonderfully crafted. The art style lends itself well to the spooky atmosphere. The effort that has gone into the furniture design is incredible, with fully rendered details like the corrugated insides of thicker card. This is complimented by a fantastic soundtrack, comprising both eerie music playing during the levels and original songs narrating the character’s journey in between.
Clearly a lot of thought has gone into giving Paper Cut Mansion a sense of character. It has a sense of humor to it, both in the NPCs’ dialogue and in the way the floating paper hand that acts as a cursor will beckon to you if you sit idle for too long.
There are some elements that could be somewhat smoother. The point-and-click sections aren’t hugely suitable for Switch controls. The way you move the camera could be easier, especially when examining the furniture. None of these are close to game-breaking, but they’re enough to get a bit grating if you’re playing for long stretches at a time.
Review: Paper Cut Mansion (Nintendo Switch)
Paper Cut Mansion is a cute and spooky roguelite with a brilliant sense of design and a tantalizing mystery at its core.