Ever since Amnesia: The Dark Descent first gave gamers the heebie-jeebies back in 2010, we’ve seen a number of games try to imitate its success. Some, like Outlast and Alien: Isolation, have been remarkably well-received, whilst others, like Slender: The Eight Pages, haven’t been quite so successful.
The latest attempt to meld first-person gameplay with straight-up survival horror tropes comes from publisher Gamera Games with Paper Dolls Original, a game that brings more of an Eastern flavour to a largely Western-dominated genre. But it also fails to understand just what makes its contemporaries so effective, relying on cheap jump scares and excruciatingly clunky gameplay in a futile effort to dredge up some semblance of fear.
Drawing comparisons with Silent Hill, Paper Dolls starts with our unnamed protagonist awakening within an ancient mansion following a horrific car accident. He’s lost his daughter and must navigate the dark corridors and ominous rooms to find her. ‘Dark’ is the key word here: you’ll want to turn the brightness up a bit with this one, because its recommended setting is simply far too dark to actually see anything, even with the game’s torch.
Navigating the mansion requires you to collect a vast number of keys to unlock its many doors, all of which are only discernible by their colours. You'll move at an incredibly slow pace, even more so than the games it takes influence from. Heck, even sprinting doesn't prove to be much use, as you'll go breathless after just a few shorts steps. Puzzles are functional but uninspired; you’ll mostly be collecting various items hidden within the rooms and combining them with other items, but there are flutters of inspiration, such as gazing into a rotating mirror to locate the correct doorway or holding a warped vinyl disc over a flame to straighten its edge.
Encounters with the game’s ghosts are pretty terrifying, but only because of how frustrating they are, not because they're actually scary. After a predictable jump scare making the camera go absolutely haywire, the game forces you to take part in quick-time events that send you right back to your last save point should you fail to hit the right buttons. Not fun.
There’s nothing wrong with trying to emulate another game’s success, as long as it’s done effectively. Paper Dolls Original borrows every horror trope under the sun, but fails to implement them in any meaningful way. It’s painfully boring, and considering its price is comparable to other, more accomplished horror games on the eShop, you’d be best off leaving this ghost in its mansion.