Couch multiplayer titles have made somewhat of a resurgence of late, because nothing quite matches the sight of pure anguish when it's coming from the seat across the room. Paperbound very much agrees with this line of thought, bringing a mixture of simple multiplayer arena brawling and some interesting gravity mechanics to picturesque literature-inspired battlegrounds, in the hopes of capturing a primetime spot on your television the next time that you have a group of friends over.
At its core, the game boasts an exceptionally simple concept: two-to-four players are dropped into an arena, where they battle it out in order to accrue enough points to open up an exit within the battleground, which the winner then needs to dash through before it closes. Simple, right? Well, kind of. Bombs and scissors (yes, they're essentially throwing knives) help to bolster the arsenal of each combatant and add a little further depth and strategy to the formula – with a single hit causing a kill. What really makes this title stand out, however, is the interesting use of gravity during gameplay.
This is where the real strategic play comes in. At first incredibly uncomfortable, but quickly becoming second nature, flipping gravity results in all players spring boarding around the arena like a group of gymnasts, launching at one another from every angle and performing seemingly complicated attacks with relative ease. It's all about using lightning fast strikes and escaping with just as much speed, utilising the environments to your advantage in order to gain consecutive points. The opportunities for brilliant, elation-inducing moments are endless.
Everything is brought to life by the quaint visuals of the maps. Each of the five sets are based upon a particular example of classic literature, conveying core concepts in the form of backdrops and shifting platforms and hazards. It all fits in with the title's theme: rips, scissors, ink bombs, and even the hand-drawn playable characters coalesce in an aesthetic that impresses.
That's not to say that this is a flawless title, however – despite it being a lot of fun with friends. Additional game types (such as Long Live the King and a few team-based modes) help to add some variety to affairs, but generally end up feeling rather superfluous in the face of the core free-for-all options. More importantly, though, without a regular group of people to bring around the same TV for some local multiplayer goodness, the game doesn't have a lot to offer. Playing against the computer repeatedly is all well and good, but it reduces a title with hours of potential for fun into one with a lifespan of a handful of quick 15 minute attempts.
The best way to determine whether Paperbound is for you is by answering one simple question: can you assemble a group of people to play video games with on a regular occasion? If the answer's yes, then put this on your watch list; it's a fun and fulfilling casual brawler that will provide solid afternoons of multiplayer action. If not, then you should probably consider closing the book on your interest in this.