A short story
I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of arena battle games. I can see myself as a grandfather one day, playing my favorite character in a future iteration of Super Smash Bros., reminiscing with my progeny about how great the old games were, and how overpowered Meta Knight was decades ago. It’s those kinds of people who will enjoy Paperbound, the newest arena kid on the block.
Paperbound (PC, PS4 [reviewed])
Developer: Dissident Logic
Publisher: Dissident Logic
Released: March 31, 2015
Before we continue, it’s best that you know Paperbound is local-only in terms of multiplayer. If that bothers you, you’ll probably want to leave now. Still here? Great!
As a whole it isn’t difficult to describe what Paperbound is all about. Like most arena fighters it’s built around four players, which can be populated by bots or people. The entire focus is on gravity, and the manipulation of it — the game plainly wears its VVVVVV inspiration on its sleeve, as Captain Viridian (along with a few other indie favorites like Juan from Guacamelee and select cast members from Monaco) is a playable character.
You’ll destroy your foes and get points by way of a quick melee slash, a straight-forward scissors projectile, or an ink bomb. Every character controls the exact same way and has access to all three abilities on every spawn. It’s on this equal playing ground that it relates to the aforementioned games above, as anyone can easily pick it up and play without having to learn the meta of each character.
Lest you think it’s too simplistic, the gravity gimmick is much more than meets the eye. Gravity can be manipulated instantly, leading to all sorts of interesting jumps, orbits, and mid-air sword fights. You can even flip while you’re in the air, hovering in limbo as long as you can press the button fast enough. It’s an interesting mechanic that doesn’t really get old despite the lack of modes and diversity that’s present.
For the price of entry you’ll net a few free-for-all modes (Versus, Survival, King) and team-based objectives (Capture the Quill, Versus, Survival, King). Versus and Survival are essentially the same thing, just with kills and lives respectively, King is a slightly modified version that functions like Halo‘s juggernaut, and Capture the Quill is, well, you can probably guess.
Aside from other minor options like hiding the HUD and a friendly fire toggle, that’s about all you’re getting. There’s no online play, no real story or campaign, and you can burn through all the levels available in about 30 minutes. If you don’t have friends on-hand locally, your mileage may vary.
As you can probably tell by the artwork Paperbound is going for a storybook-esque theme, which it achieves for the most part despite some drab and unimpressive visuals. While the core gameplay is intact with nary a visible frameskip, the actual style looks uninteresting as a whole, especially on a PlayStation 4.
Paperbound isn’t all that exciting even for hardcore arena veterans, but the foundation is there for a fast-paced frag-fest. The developers employed a half-measure when it comes to aesthetics and content, but there’s plenty of fun to be had once you start flipping out and making gravity your bitch.