Indie couch competitive arena games seem to be nearly a dime a dozen these days, but every once in a while, one seems to shine a little brighter than the rest. Paperbound is one such game, taking the two dimensional arena combat genre to a new level by incorporating insanely unique level designs and gravity alterations that affect each match. The characters are ones who have found life due to some magic dust, and they do battle within the pages of a book.
In Paperbound, gravity is relative to the players’ individual characters, and you can swap gravity 180 degrees at the press of a button. This concept alone was one that took a bit of getting used to, but once I finally did, I was using this to my advantage to both dodge attacks, and rain surprise attacks on players below me (or above or to the side, as the case may be). Each character has a melee attack, as well as a pair of scissors and an ink bomb to throw. The absurd simplicity of the chaos is extremely addicting and with as quick as each match tends to be, I found myself playing round after round of four player battles, and that was all just on one level.
Grabbing a controller, one of the devs asked if we wanted to play a different level. Going from the fairly basic rectangular layout of the first arena we played in, the next few added some drastically different elements that vastly changed strategy and gameplay. One had no walls on the outside edges, so switching gravity and flying off the screen one way would throw you into the other side of the screen. Another had a spinning platform in the middle that could help or hinder awesome kills. How much variation is there? According to one of the devs there are five books with 18 levels a piece, each book containing a different art style. If I thought I couldn’t get enough of just one level, or even the three or four that they showed me, I can’t wait to be able to sit down with three other people and the full game for some crazy Paperbound action.
In the mode that we were playing, upon reaching ten kills, the player must escape through a rift that appears and the other players can try to stop him or her. If they are successful, that player must get another kill before a rift opens up again, so it adds just another level of unpredictability and craziness to the whole game. Paperbound is looking to be one of those games that everyone needs on their console for that instantaneous four player couch competitive fun. With such quick paced game and huge variety in both levels and modes, the real test is going to be getting people to leave your house once they’ve started playing when the game releases for PS4 in January of 2015.