The likelihood is relatively high that you've never heard of Paper Beast and clicked on this article primarily because of the headline or the pretty artwork. But maybe also because you remember our top 10 insider tips from the last Gamescom. There Paper Beast came first. I was allowed to play the first quarter of an hour of the game and was rarely as impressed and moved by a demo as by this one. Hopefully this impression would continue in the full version, I thought at the time. Now I've played it through and can report enthusiastically: He does!
"Wow" was the only thing I said after the end of the face-to-face demo, before I had to remain silent for a few moments and process the impressions carefully. This Playstation-exclusive VR game was so beautiful, heartbreaking and unique, the demo of which ended in a furious finale that makes hearing and seeing go away. That's what VR was invented for!
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Across from me sat Eric Chahi, the developer of the game, who is just as likeable and lovable as his game. If the name says nothing, then at least his most famous work is well known: Another World, this 2D action adventure in pioneering polygon graphics that appeared in 1994, but is still being reissued to this day and is therefore probably the only game that has been published on more platforms than Skyrim and Doom combined. At least felt.
His last game From Dust was nine years ago. The gods simulation was praised for its painterly look, dreamy atmosphere and clever game mechanics, and although Paper Beast is a completely different gaming experience, many of these salient features can also be found in it.
Paper Beast is essentially a puzzle adventure like Portal or Superhot, which allows clever puzzle mechanisms to rock each other in ever more complicated situations, all in a picturesque game world, which, like Journey, is an experience in itself and which is fascinating Is populated with AI-simulated origami animals. Interacting with them, watching them behave as if they were real animals, shy away from contact, wrestling with each other, escaping from predators, stalking curiously and backing away again – that is the heart and soul of the unique experience of Paper Beats – but also the center of his cleverly conceived puzzles.
Paper Beast begins in the middle of a desert, similar to the one that already amazed us in Journey. Above us is a pastel-colored sky, in which the clouds hang like colorful bales of cotton candy and tell us that this world in which we find ourselves is only distantly related to ours. According to the background story, it is a cyberspace, in which lost data runs like a drain, accumulates there and ultimately forms a new form of virtual life that arises and exists out of itself.
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Paper Beast's poetic-philosophical background forms the diffuse background noise in this world, which is primarily the stage and living space for the fantastic creatures that populate it. Although they appear bizarre and strange in their paper texture, they seem familiar from the first moment, behave like beings that we know from our own experience: a giraffe that lowers its long neck and looks at us curiously, a four-legged friend who behaves like a playful dog in a pack with its peers, a dung beetle that forms the desert sand into balls and transports it to itself, a fluffy tapeworm that sucks in the sand with its head and exits at the tail end …
The design of these creatures is nothing less than the heart and soul of this game: like origami animals brought to life, they consist exclusively of folded paper, which shapes their bodies as a skeleton-like impression in a grotesque abstractness. Paper Beast is all about these animals, their natural properties and the way they interact with the simulated physics of the world. If you throw a treat in the form of crumpled paper before the wolves, you distract them with it. If you free the giraffe from creepers, it will be kind to you. Dung beetles roll the sand in front of them and pile it up to a ramp, which you can use to reach higher places. You have to tie the predator to the tree with a leash so that the herbivores can pass to the oasis.
Like in Chahi's last game From Dust, physics also plays a central role in the many puzzle mechanics. If you dig a swath in the sand to redirect a stream to a tree, it will be in full bloom again and will attract the animals that will regain their strength in its shade. If you tie the feather-light dogs with lianas to the heavy turtles, they will be dragged through the stormy gorge, from which they would otherwise be blown out. If you melt an ice wall with a fireball, it opens the way behind it.
In this way, Paper Beast presents you in its approximately 20 small chapters with new challenges that have to be solved in new and creative ways. Most of the time, they are extremely original, sometimes also really tricky, rarely annoying when the environment is exaggerated with the stubbornness of physical correctness.
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But Paper Beast is always beautiful. The game by the French developers at Pixel Reef sees itself not only as a clever puzzle game and a fascinating simulation of artificial intelligence, but above all as an exhilarating aesthetic experience of a virtual world. How only VR can do this, Paper Beast regularly puts you in an almost forgotten form of astonishment, as only a child can understand who experiences a rainbow or a summer storm for the first time in his life.
Intoxication of the senses
The first of these moments, which leave the player breathless, already stages Paper Beast after about ten minutes like a bang, which was also the culmination of the Gamescom demo, which left me speechless at the time: A hurricane breaks loose, you yourself virtual Reality right in the middle of it, the sand roars under deafening roar from all directions, that a hearing and seeing pass away. The paper animals are mercilessly torn into the air and carried away. Then the storm drills a throat into the ground, directly at your feet, swallows all sand, all shrubs and rocks and tears them into the black depth that seems to expand endlessly.
Paper Beast always succeeds in moments like this that overwhelm all the senses at the same time: at one point you build a hot air balloon and fly with it over this enchanted world as if you were floating through a painting. One scene takes you under water and one to the center of the world, where a maelstrom of orphaned data rushes through the tunnels like blood rushes through the veins of the planet.
Paper Beats only takes about four hours. A little too little to fully unfold all of the puzzle mechanics and make full use of the possibilities. But with the exception of a few somewhat tough and laborious physics puzzles, every single minute is a pleasure that appeals to the heart and brain alike. For afterwards there is a simulation mode in which you can create your own world and put animals in it, to observe how they behave and to do all kinds of jokes with AI and physics. I doubt whether this will result in entertaining employment over a longer period of time.