Paper Trail

Posted:  May 14, 2024
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Review

Paper Trail was provided by Newfangled Games for review. Thank you!

When I first saw its trailer, Paper Trail looked like such a unique game, so I was delighted when I received a copy to test on the Steam Deck. The developers specifically mentioned that the game had been tested on the Steam Deck and that you could use a variety of control methods to play it intrigued me, so let's dive into our review and see just what Paper Trail is and how well it runs on the Steam Deck!

PaperTrailStock1
Paper Trail allows you to manipulate the corners and sides of the room to create new paths.

Put simply, Paper Trail is a puzzle platformer that makes use of, well, paper for its puzzles. The game is separated into rooms or pieces of paper, which you can fold in various ways to manipulate the world around you, thus creating new paths and revealing the solutions to the puzzles. Paper Trail starts you off with some basic tutorials teaching you about some of the techniques you'll need to be familiar with to progress, and it does a good job of showing you how to manipulate the paper. The controls are also quite simple and shouldn't be a problem.

In relatively short order, you'll find yourself confronting some pretty tricky puzzles in Paper Trail, within 30 minutes you'll be in the thick of it, trying to create new paths to move boulders around, matching up numbered blocks, and perhaps taking a little extra time to get some collectibles too! Each world introduces new puzzle elements for you to contend with, so the puzzles always stay fresh.

Collectibles take the form of little origami figures that are usually a secondary puzzle to solve, separate from the puzzle needed to progress.

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There are a variety of puzzles to solve, which aren't obvious at first glance until you turn the page

Paper Trail is very lenient with you, though; if you do find yourself struggling to solve puzzles, you can simply press the Y button, and you can see that the next step you need to take is to progress the puzzle along a little. You can choose whether you see the whole solution or the next fold you must make. I love the fact that this accessibility feature is here. Puzzle games can get frustrating, and although the challenge is there with Paper Trail, if you are getting despondent about the puzzle or are here mainly for the story, it offers you a way to always progress. You forfeit a Steam achievement by using hints, though.

I'll admit I did use the hint system a fair bit. Puzzle games always stump me, and even with the hints, you still need to figure out where you need to be and where the objects in the game world need to be when you decide to fold the paper, so it doesn't solve it all for you. It was a nice compromise for someone like me who isn't the best at logic puzzles.

The story follows a teenage girl, Paige, who has grown up in a secluded place with her parents. However, she wishes to pursue her dreams against her parents' wishes and, therefore, decides to run away from home, with the player helping her on her journey to the "big city." The game is broken up into 9 worlds, which essentially serve as different environments, with each new environment bringing further narration on Paige's story. While I found the story somewhat intriguing, it did fade into the back of my mind when playing, and I didn't find myself on tenterhooks waiting to hear the next part of Paige's backstory that explains why she's running away.

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Short puzzles between each world tell the story of Paige's life up to this moment.

In terms of presentation, Paper Trail is very pleasant. The world is largely designed to look like a watercolor painting, and it pulls it off quite well. There are vibrant colors mixed in with a sort of slight noise to simulate the world being made of paper. The background music is rather subtle, as are the sound effects, with a constant but quiet background track playing at all times and sound effects mostly occurring when you do certain tasks. All of it combined makes for a rather relaxing time.

As for the length of the game, it's hard to pinpoint exactly, as it'll largely depend on whether you use hints or not and how good you are at solving puzzles, but I would say if you're going in blind. You're "average" at puzzling. There's probably a solid 6 hours or so of content here, not including any extra time spent going for collectibles. There is a Steam achievement to finish the game in 4 hours or less, but I think that's mostly for players doing a second playthrough and effectively "speedrunning" the puzzles.

So I think Paper Trail is a solid little puzzler, but how does it perform on the Steam Deck? Let's find out!

Paper Trail - Steam Deck Performance

The developer clarified that they had tested Paper Trail on the Steam Deck and designed control options specifically for it, so you might have a good idea of how this will go, but I'll cover it anyway.

Paper Trail gets pretty much everything right. It has 16:10 aspect ratio support, including 1280x800, the Steam Deck's native resolution. It has full controller support that automatically maps all the controls for you. You can modify the text size in the game, but the default ran fine for me. The only settings adjustment you'll be making is lowering your TDP Limit to get some killer battery life out of your Steam Deck.

The only issue I did have is that, for some reason, clicking the right touchpad defaults to the X button, which shows the other side of the paper, and it did annoy me a couple of times as you use the right touchpad a lot and accidentally pressing it stops your cursor. I would personally unmap X from the right touchpad and just use the X button when I need to use it.

So, let's dive into the very complicated process (sarcasm) of optimizing Paper Trail for the Steam Deck!

Recommended Settings - 60 FPS

In your SteamOS settings, set an FPS Limit of 60 FPS / 60Hz, and you'll want to set a TDP Limit of 5W.

The default graphical settings are fine. It defaults to 1280x800, V-Sync On, and High quality. All of this is fine. You can raise the FPS a little and lower the power draw by having it on Low quality. Still, the difference is about 1-1.5W. I'd prefer having all the visual niceties for the game rather than gaining a few minutes of battery, especially when your battery life is quite significant anyway.

PaperTrailSettings

With the 5W TDP limit, we get a very stable 60 FPS out of the game, with the frame time graph being pretty much flat the entire time. The only area I saw some variation in the frame time was in a couple of scenes during the Autumn area, likely due to some extra visual effects in that environment. However, it is a short section that experiences frame time drops, and upping the TDP limit to 6W eliminates them if it really bothers you.

Power draw using these settings varies between 10-12W depending on your environment. During the narrated puzzles between each world, it often stays around 9-10W. During the Autumn world, it often stays nearer 12W, for example. Regardless, Steam Deck LCD owners should expect around 3.5 hours of battery life, and Steam Deck OLED owners about 4.5 hours.

Temperatures held around 60C for almost the entire time of playing.

Accessibility:

Pleasantly, Paper Trail offers a decent selection of accessibility options, from removing camera shake to making it so the camera doesn't smoothly travel between rooms but instead instantly jumps, likely to counter motion sickness. You can also adjust the size of the text in the game and enable a grid if you're having difficulty working out where things are positioned.

Conclusion:

Paper Trail is a delightful little puzzler, in my opinion. It offers a decent challenge for anyone out there looking for one but also makes the story easier to enjoy via the hints system. The story is interesting, but for me, it mostly fades into the background as a means of giving a reason for Paige's journey and not much else.

The puzzles themselves are kept fresh by the fact that each new world introduces new puzzle elements to the game, and with there being 9 worlds to work through, with most lasting roughly 30-45 minutes, the puzzles switch up a bit before you get too used to them. I didn't find myself rolling my eyes at having to solve a similar puzzle at any point in my playthrough.

Finally, the way the game plays on Steam Deck is excellent. The graphics are pleasant and easy to run, the power draw is low, and the controls work wonderfully. There's really not much going against Paper Trail as far as Steam Deck compatibility is concerned. If you've had your eye on this game, you can buy it with confidence that it'll work just as well on the Steam Deck as anywhere else!

Our review is based on the PC version of this game.

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SDHQ's Build Score Breakdown

Paper Trail is a delightful little puzzler that will run as well on the Steam Deck as anywhere else!

Content

Gameplay: 
Full StarFull StarFull StarFull StarNo Star
Graphics: 
Full StarFull StarFull StarFull StarNo Star
Story: 
Full StarFull StarFull StarNo StarNo Star
Sound: 
Full StarFull StarFull StarHalf StarNo Star
Fun Factor: 
Full StarFull StarFull StarFull StarNo Star

Build Score

Performance: 
Full StarFull StarFull StarFull StarFull Star
VISUALS: 
Full StarFull StarFull StarFull StarFull Star
Stability: 
Full StarFull StarFull StarFull StarFull Star
Controls: 
Full StarFull StarFull StarFull StarFull Star
Battery: 
Full StarFull StarFull StarFull StarNo Star
Oliver Stogden
Oliver began playing video games at an early age, starting with the SNES console and Commodore Amiga computer. Nowadays, his interest is in the future of portable technology, such as handheld gaming systems, portable power stations/banks, and portable monitors. And seeing just how far we can push these devices.
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