PAX East 2020 Hands-on: Paper Beast

From legendary designer Éric Chahi and his independent studio Pixel Reef, comes Paper Beast – an absolutely mesmerizing PSVR experience.

After three years in development, this game is so indescribable that I am going to suggest watching the below teaser trailer to fully appreciate what this game is about.

There are two full modes available in Paper Beast – adventure mode and a sandbox mode.  I started with the adventure mode, at which point Mr. Chahi, who had been telling me about a bit about the game and the controls, went silent.  I was looking at nothing – a white screen. After a moment, the wind picked up and it was apparent that the whiteness was a sheet that started blowing in the wind. By grabbing the sheet I was able to move it aside, revealing myself to be in a desert. Alone.  

Adventure mode begins almost more like “mystery mode”. There are very few clues as to what to do or where to go, but I soon found myself face-to-face with a titular paper beast. You can interact with everything you see using the PSVR controls, including the various paper beasts you encounter. Shortly after my encounter, I realized you can feed them “plants”, and then sort of follow them as they lead you on your mysterious adventure through the desert.  

I won’t spoil the beginnings of the adventure since this game is best played without knowing anything about what to do and just experiencing it in a state of ignorance and wonder. There are a lot of things to discover or come across such as other, aggressive paper beasts, deep bottomless pits in the sand, and all encompassing tornadoes.  The level of immersion this game gave me was mind-blowing. Mr. Chahi estimates this mode will take about 6 hours to play through.

Entirely separate from the adventure mode was the sandbox mode, where you create your very own fully functional ecosystem.  You can add sand and water, place paper-beasts or plants, or change weather effects, among other aspects. Each item, beast, or plant has its own individual characteristics, and interacts with the environment, and with each other differently. So some beasts create sand, some convert water to sand, some plants make water, or tether items together, etc. Sandboxes and world creation type modes usually don’t keep my interest for very long, but I had lost track of time after becoming immersed in the world during my 45 minute session. Mr. Chahi gently advised me that our allotted time had come to an end and that I needed to relinquish the controllers and say goodbye to the ecosystem I had been constructing.

Paper Beast is set to launch on March 24 for PlayStation VR.