Though the point & click adventure genre may be relatively dormant since the golden era of '80s & '90s PC Gaming, modern independent studios have proven time and time again there still is an audience for these types of titles. Luckily for us, a cascade of content ever rolls out of the depths of Steam, Itch.io, and the like; one such “poke and tapper” has left a sizable paper trail full of artistry, craftsmanship, and homages.
So let's shine a light on the fantastical and freakish world of Papetura.
Instantly, there’s a sense of otherworldliness and mystery from only booting the game.
Confined within a papier-mâché cage, a sentient strip of paper called Pape mills about - accompanied by a moth-like creature and a series of luminescent flower bulbs (i.e. what I assume a typical Switz prison is like).
You aren’t subject to spend the remainder of your days in jail of course, no matter how serene it may be! No, your adventure awaits beyond making the world's most simplistic prison break: drop-kicking living footstools, befriending a little shadow-cat like critter called Tura that spits hairballs of life and stores objects in its face, and becoming vored by a worm-like Monstro from Pinnochio…
Strange as the story may be, the plot isn’t the focal point of Papetura. No dialogue is shared between characters other than miniature animatics that float above the person of interest. Even still at the tail end of the game, Papetura managed to tug at the heartstrings with a satisfying little narrative loop seeded near the beginning of your journey.
Papetura has a distinctive handcrafted aesthetic that permeates throughout the two or so hour playthrough. The game has a cinematic quality of world-building purely through environmental design, without it feeling like an interactive movie. In fact, the detail elicits a tactile texture that’s organic and fragile - as would a world whittled from wood and paper would feel like.
The scope and ambition of this project are admirable - watching the behind-the-scenes video the games’ creator Tomasz Ostafin put together of the creative process is awe-inspiring. From storyboard sketches to creating 3D assets, printing out the blueprints, and cutting them from cardboard… the entire process paid off in spades! And the use of lighting tethers the gameplay to the game world effortlessly.
Papetura is further bolstered by its audible quality - the erratic and peaceful arrangement by composer Floex (aka Tomas Dvorak), peppered with tangibly visceral sound design from Juraj Mravec compliment the texture of the game.
As a point & click adventure, Papetura is brief but satisfying. There were some instances where the puzzles were… puzzling, but I never thought they were ever too difficult. It helps that there were a variety of obstructions, and ways to combat them; and if you were in a pinch, you can get a clue courtesy of a little animatic hint from an adorable little bubble. Hints don’t come so easily, as you’re required to complete a mini-game before being rewarded.
There’s some clear inspiration from some of the genre’s cult classics such as 1996’s clay world in The Neverhood, and 2009’s Machinarium (Floex having created the music for that game too!). Though it may be a bit too early to board the nostalgia boat of the mid to late 2000s, there’s a quality behind Papetura’s stop-motion animation that’s so oddly specific but unmistakable to that time.
For those keen to spend an hour and a half with Papetura, I'd highly recommend saving this game for a rainy day - ideally with a cup of hot cocoa, perhaps with a blanket & cushion fort, along with some fairy lights to boot.
Papetura (Reviewed on Windows)
This game is great, with minimal or no negatives.
An absolutely amazing feat of crafted creativity, and accompanied by a stunning and complimentary score. For those looking for a quirky and methodical movie-length point & click adventure, Papetura is definitely one for the wishlist!