Paper Dolls 2 Gold Edition
Developer: Beijing Litchi Culture Media Co., Ltd.,
Publisher: Winking Skywalker Entertainment Limited
Genre(s): Survival Horror
Platform: PlayStation 5 (also available on PS4, and PC)
Release Date: 26/01/2022
A code was provided for review purposes
Paper Dolls 2 is the sequel to the aptly named Paper Dolls: Original, a game I remember playing and reviewing for the site about four years ago. It was a fun game, but not without its annoyances. So when the chance came to get my teeth into Paper Dolls 2, I was eager to jump back into the Yin mansion and see if anything had changed.
Find out whether Paper Dolls 2 improved on the first instalment or whether it was nothing but crepe paper blowing in the wind in this rapid review.
A Familiar Tale
It has been quite some time since I played the original game, but I remembered enough to piece together what was happening. I say this because both Paper Dolls and Paper Dolls 2 offer minimal introductions or background story. Instead, everything is discovered on the fly. I liked this touch, which made me more interested in reading and genuinely digesting the notes I found in the mansion.
Paper Dolls 2 starts inside the Yin mansion, and I soon deduced I was still the same regular guy looking for my daughter—the same as in the first game. I am trying to recall if any of the map is the same as the first game. As I write, I wonder if the section of the house I never get to reach – and which map segment is never found – could be where the first game takes place.
I can safely say that I love and hate the Paper Dolls series in equal measure. There are a lot of faults to the game, yet despite them, Paper Dolls 2 is enjoyable; in fact, I would say it was really good fun. The game offers an exciting mix of exploration, stealth-less stealth – you can’t be quiet but must still try to avoid the spirits – puzzles, combat and QTE sections that mean you’re always doing something.
Pacing Issues Make Things a Slog Early On
As the player, you are given no direction in Paper Dolls 2. The game starts in an old and decrepit mansion. Everything is falling apart, and vengeful spirits are chasing you. While the aim of the game is to find and rescue your daughter, you must collect items, avoid, and ultimately dispatch said spirits. There are five spirits and two bosses in the form of the Master and Mistress that you must contend with at various stages.
All of the gameplay direction is found in cryptic notes and mementoes that lie scattered around the house. My main issue with this is that the game’s pacing feels off. The first half is a blind and unnecessarily frustrating slog. You wander aimlessly with no clues giving you a firm sense of direction. However, once you hit the halfway mark and have the first real spirit battle, things speed up, and everything falls into place. Clues and documents make sense, and the path you need to take is clear.
That is not to say it’s easy. You still need to think about the clues and deduce information from them. However, I enjoyed this game aspect and found it helped pull me into the mansion.
A Taste of the Orient
I am not 100% sure which time period the game is set. Our character had a car crash at the start of the first Paper Dolls game. However, the mansion and all its spirits are certainly remnants from a long-forgotten era. The mansion itself belongs to the Qing dynasty. This places backstory events as taking place anywhere between 1644 and 1912.
What is unclear is whether we have somehow been transported back there or if everything plays out in the modern day. We never get to leave the mansion nor interact with anything beyond its crumbling walls.
I’ve always had a deep affinity with Asian culture, and I long to spend some time there. This game captured everything that we, as westerners, have come to associate with that part of the world.
The mansion is vast and yet easily traversable, and despite what appears to be repeated designs, I never felt lost or unsure about which room lay beyond each door.
A Strange and Unsettling Perspective
When playing Paper Dolls 2, I often lamented the strange haze and unclear focus that came with the game. The mansion was shrouded in darkness, except for a beam of light that was our vision.
Often details became lost in a strange haze that distorted things when moving around. This was, at times, an annoyance. However, now that I have finished the game, I wonder how much of it was intentional to enhance the menacing atmosphere of the Yin household. If the decision was deliberate, it is a commendable effort but fails to hit the correct spots.
On top of this, something felt off with the perspective in the game. Either that, or my character was seriously vertically challenged. The doors seemed large, and their hands were at eye height. Steps seemed overly thick compared to everything around them, and the general sense of proportion was lost. My height compared to doors and then my height compared to different items of furniture in the room never quite lined up.
This is, again, a minor issue, but it became annoyingly apparent the more I played. It never impacted the gameplay itself, but it remained frustrating in a way I can’t quite put my finger on.
Clever Puzzles (for a Linguist)
Puzzles are a big part of Paper Dolls 2, much like in the first game. While the story and direction unfold through notelets and other discarded items, key elements for advancement, such as keys or solutions to different puzzles, lay behind a pleasingly challenging puzzle wall. I liked the puzzles in Paper Dolls 2 … for the most part. However, some required a fundamental understanding of Chinese, which I do not have.
In particular, the compass combinations needed to break the magic seals on certain doors boiled down to a guessing game. Yes, the notes gave you the answer, but you had to remember the Chinese characters from three different notes and select them from a badly positioned compass that suffered from the above-mentioned haze problems. This was nothing more than a localization issue, and while mildly frustrating, it didn’t impact my overall enjoyment of the game.
Combat is Not Paper Dolls 2’s Strong Point
Paper Dolls 2 is a survival horror game, yet there are several rounds of combat to dispatch the various spirits. Sadly, combat is not the strongest part of this game, yet it is unavoidable. Personally, I found the boss fight with the Master the hardest, with the two final fights against the Mistress being more enjoyable.
The problem with the combat is not its simplicity. I liked that aspect. Rather it was the unbalanced nature of the game. Each boss fight consists of three rounds, taking between three and five shots to end each round. This depends on your accuracy and hitting certain weak spots. However, you only have two hit points.
Additionally, I felt my character was very slow. His walking speed was near unbearable, while his ‘sprint’ lasted maybe three seconds and left him winded and slower for a time after. While my opponents could glide, jump, and attack multiple times. If that wasn’t enough, loading my old-fashioned rifle was tedious, especially with a two-shot capacity. While I appreciate that this particular element added to the challenge, I died several times as the reload animation hid my opponent, and I could not see which attack pattern was incoming.
Overall, the movement speed and general sluggish feel to our character and his run, which I feel is possibly the most pathetic thing I’ve seen in some time, are the biggest hindrances to this game.
Final Thoughts on Paper Dolls 2
Despite my criticisms, I liked Paper Dolls 2. I enjoyed the first game, and I enjoyed the second a little more. It’s far from perfect, but the studio behind it has only ever worked on these two games. What they have created is commendable, and I would have no reservations about playing anything else they created. There was a clear hint at a possible Paper Dolls 3 if the final cut scene was anything to go by.
However, I feel the studio needs to listen to feedback, as the problems in the first game remained in Paper Dolls 2. These are not difficulty-related elements, or at least they should not be considered such. They are genuine weaknesses and frustrations I can understand ruining the experience for some. I nearly rage-quit during the Master fight a few times. However, it is the kind of frustration that is forgotten once the fight is over. Hence I worry that they used these tactics deliberately, which is a shame, as there are better ways to achieve the same effect and improve the gameplay.
If you like survival horror games, and don’t mind a lot of backtracking, both in terms of exploration and escaping capture, then I highly recommend checking out both Paper Dolls titles.
Rapid Reviews Rating
3.5 out of 5
You can get your copy of Paper Dolls 2 from the PlayStation Store today.
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.