Paper Cut Mansion Review - Screenshot 1 of 4
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

Toby, it seems, is having a very bad day. He’s found himself stuck in a mansion, investigating the strange happenings within it and why he seems to be trapped in it. Paper Cut Mansion is all about uncovering the truth behind the unusual surroundings and surviving long enough to make it to the next floor. There is an attempt to spice up the typical roguelite formula with unique visuals and setting, but the game falls short of greatness by not polishing up those changes enough.

The first thing that you’ll notice about Paper Cut Mansion is the visuals, which are a strange creepy papercraft aesthetic that gives powerful Corpse Bride or Psychonauts vibes throughout. The jazzy soundtrack and occasional musical number that plays as you make your way through the levels of the mansion only add to this feeling. The art design is fantastic and is easily the part of the game that stands out from the plethora of roguelites on Switch.

You’ll run into strange characters, like a priest with a locked briefcase or a sushi chef with an unusually high opinion of himself. Many of the characters will request something from Toby, asking him to hunt down an item to destroy it or stop an unsatisfied diner from leaving a bad review. Succeeding gives you a small boost in your stats for that run, so it is a vital part of pushing further into the game. Money earned and weapons collected carry over between runs, but stats and your progress through the mansion is reset each time you die.

Paper Cut Mansion Review - Screenshot 2 of 4
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Undocked)

The first few hours of gameplay feel like they hold up to the visuals. Each procedurally generated level actually consists of three different dimensions that occupy the same physical space and are themed on parts of the human brain. The Neo Cortex is where you go to solve puzzles and is technically the safest of the zones, though occasionally the furniture will jump out to attack you. The Limbic System is a survival-based zone where you can find clues as to why Toby is trapped in the mansion while the cold air threatens to choke the life out of you. Finally, the Reptilian zone is where enemies spawn for you to fight.

Each zone plays out differently and you’ll have to spend time in each one to clear most levels. It is a fun wrinkle to the roguelite formula and gives the game more life than it would have otherwise. However, it quickly becomes clear that there isn’t enough unique gameplay to sustain Paper Cut Mansion beyond a few hours.

The same few NPCs show up, making the same few requests each time. The layout of each floor changes for every run, but the goal of finding the talking door and fulfilling its request doesn’t. While it is fun to unravel the mystery behind the disembodied voice at the start of the game, the setting doesn’t have enough character or charm to give it any real stakes. We must have solved the same letter puzzle a dozen times during our playthrough, which quickly turned them into busy work rather than an actual challenge.

Paper Cut Mansion Review - Screenshot 3 of 4
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Undocked)

Repetition is a core part of the roguelite genre, but there are better ways to implement it beyond just changing up the layout of the floors for each run. Having things repeat so often leaves the game feeling shallow and doesn’t create a rewarding experience. It's likely intentional on the part of the developers that Toby moves like a puppet most of the time, but it makes him feel sluggish and unwieldy. If you’re going to create a punishing game, you have to make sure that the controls are tight enough that players aren’t fighting them when they should be focused on the enemies. Obstacles here have oddly large hitboxes which caused us to take damage when we should have been well clear. Toby’s aim with his rifle is questionable at best. And motion controls get in the way of the puzzles more than they help. Rather than feeling challenged, we found ourselves frustrated at how ineffectual Toby was.

Space Lizard Studio’s ambition likely got the better of them on this one. Focusing on one aspect of the gameplay and perfecting it instead of splitting attention between combat, puzzle-solving, and survival sections would have produced more satisfying results. As it is, none of the mechanics work with each other well enough to justify their existence.

Several technical bugs also showed up during our playthrough. Characters that stuttered in their movements or enemies that seemed to disappear from the screen were minor inconveniences. One run was cut short as an enemy that we had to defeat to open the final door wouldn’t spawn, forcing us to wander the floor for ages before finally just quitting and trying again.

Paper Cut Mansion Review - Screenshot 4 of 4
Captured on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Undocked)

It is a shame that the actual gameplay here doesn’t live up to the excellent visuals and audio, but there just isn’t enough here to recommend it to anyone but the most die-hard roguelite fan. Even then, that recommendation comes with a huge caveat that there are better games in the genre for the same price. Despite great art design and some intriguing concepts, Paper Cut Mansion's gameplay itself quickly wears as thin as the paper the characters are cut from.

Conclusion

There is a good game in Paper Cut Mansion, but it would need at least a year polishing and refining what's here to make it worthwhile. As it is, the interesting concept and excellent art direction can’t make up for shallow gameplay and clunky mechanics. Nothing in this game is terrible, but there are far better roguelites out there to spend your time and money on.