Preview: Paper Ghost Stories: Third Eye Open

2 Feb 2024

If I’m being honest, as a reviewer, it’s often difficult for a game to wow me. It’s not that there aren’t good games out there, but it sometimes feels rare to come across unique titles in this industry. Luckily, I think I found something that fits the bill in Paper Ghost Stories: Third Eye Open.

Paper Ghost Stories: Third Eye Open is a puzzle adventure game developed by Cellar Vault Games and published by Chorus Worldwide Games. It is slated for a Summer 2024 release on Steam.

Third Eye Open’s demo starts you off on chapter 4 of the story, so you kind of miss out on a lot of the story element expose and character intros. However, according to the game’s description, the narrative focuses on Ting, a young girl who can see and talk to spirits. Alongside her is a ghost named Xiu who is looking for peace. The game is supposed to span five years of Ting’s life, but during the demo, you only play a day.

However, what you do play gives you great insight into what this story could be about and where it could go. It starts with Ting explaining to her friends what happened during an incident earlier in the game. You don’t get to know what this incident is or what happened, but her friends seemed impressed and ready for ice cream. What starts as a regular hangout culminates in Ting and her friends visiting a haunted house where they are attacked by one very angry ghost. Ting goes home feeling guilty and responsible for what happened and vows to find a way to protect herself and her friends.

Of course, the cliffhanger piqued my interest, but there were also several things going on within the story that, if done well, can make for really great storytelling. Among them are Ting’s powers and relationship with Xiu. I mean, how often do you get to explore the relationship between a girl and her ghost friend? The second is Ting’s home life and how those around her treat her. Her father is a bit on the abusive side and her mom can lack self-awareness sometimes. Both of these things affect Ting and will probably shape how she develops throughout the game. 

These varying factors, as well as the fact that I liked all the characters presented in the demo, have me looking forward to playing more of this game, if only just to see how everything will turn out. 

Third Eye Open is a puzzle game and, from the bit I played in the demo, a thoughtful one at that. The game guides your steps through the use of Ting’s journal, which helps outline what your current goal is and where you should be heading next.

Your surroundings make up the next bit of gameplay. You have tasks ranging from as simple as fetching an item to as involved as guiding your friends around the room in a way where they aren’t seen by a ghost. You also have dialogue options but these generally lead to the same results (or at least they do in the demo).

One of my favorite parts of the gameplay was the timed maneuvers. There’s a point in which Ting and her friends are chased by an evil ghost and you must press a series of buttons in a timely manner to escape the house before you are caught. This involves helping a friend up if they fall or picking the right direction to turn. The timed aspect of this added some suspense to the situation, which increased my enjoyment.

I just hope that, in the final game, messing up during these instances actually has some consequences. In the demo you’re just sent back to the start, and it’s easy to get past once you mess up once or twice since the time instances repeat.

Third Eye Open’s description says that there will be more to do including: “navigating challenging conversations, saving lost souls, solving compelling puzzles and stealthily avoiding dark spirits and other threats.” Only some of these are present in the demo but I look forward to seeing how the other bits are incorporated and to what extent.

Third Eye Open is beautiful. I believe the developers described the visuals as a living “paper theatre” style, inspired by Joss papercraft of Southeast Asia. The characters and locations are vibrant and, from the little I was able to explore, have great attention to detail.

I also really liked how the creators took the time to add expression to the sprites, even when in dialogue. I’m looking forward to the full game to see how they develop it visually, especially because the full game is supposed to span five years of Ting’s life.

In terms of audio, the game isn’t voiced so there isn’t much to comment on there, but I was a fan of the few tracks I heard. The song that stood out the most to me was the one during the timed instance as it added to the fear and suspense the scene was trying to convey.

From the bit I was able to play of it, I think that Paper Ghost Stories: Third Eye Open has a bright future ahead. After all, titles that look to tackle interesting themes from a different perspective are the sort of freshness in storytelling that every reviewer lives for.

Couple that with the fact that the game looks and sounds great just means that I will be one of the first people to pick it up when it officially releases.

Preview copy provided by Cellar Vault Games for PC. Screenshots taken oy reviewer. Featured image courtesy of Cellar Vault Games.