Paperbound takes players back to a time where local multiplayer games were special gatherings amongst friends. With the advent of online multiplayer and voice chat, you can play with your buddies without being in the same country, let alone the same room. Much like the frantic multiplayer in TowerFall Ascension on PS4, Paperbound doesn't include online components of any type. It does, however, feature an arena style multiplayer combat, but the lack of modes narrows available options and unlockables, limiting the overall experience.
An arena brawler, Paperbound features up to four players to battle it out, allowing AI bots to fill in any missing player slots. Considering the game is at its best when the action on screen is chaotic, you'll want to ensure to always have four players even if you are the only human player. Paperbound utilizes three key concepts when it comes to combat: making use of unique melee weapons, a thrown pair of scissors, and an inkwell bomb. The simplistic drawn characters use an overly large pencil for attacks, but the game features stylised versions of other popular game characters (Guacamelee!, VVVVVV, Monaco, Cards and Castles, and Tumblestone), each with their own unique weapon. The ranged attacks are standard across the board with everyone carrying a pair of scissors that can be thrown in a straight line, sticking to any surface. The inkwell acts as a grenade with formidable range, but has an arc to the path it follows.
Kills are instant no matter what attack is used, but the action stays at a frantic pace as respawning is nearly instant. Helping make Paperbound an unique experience is the manipulation of gravity, allowing you to attach to any and all of the surfaces. At anytime you are capable of changing gravity, sending your character floating/falling through the air landing on an adjacent surface. It takes some time getting used to the controls, but once mastered you can easily traverse the enclosed small arenas. With some of the maps featuring multiple objects, changing gravity may not always be as simple as you think, resulting in sending your character to an undesired location. Once you attempt to alter your gravity (it won't affect other players), you'll be attracted to the nearest land mass, which may not be the desired result.
The melee weapon also acts as your only defense. Other than jumping or dodging out the way, it deflects incoming attacks with precise swipes. You'll quickly realize that mastering gravity becomes the key to battles, especially once you learn to float through the air by constantly altering gravity. Levels are broken up by five themes from various books, taking you through the Center of the Earth, Dante's Inferno and other fantasy themes. Paperbound only features four different game modes, allowing for free-for-all battles or through teams.
The modes are quite typical for multiplayer games, featuring Versus, Capture the Quill, Long Live the King and Survival. In Versus, players compete for the highest kill count while Long Live the King is setup similar to Juggernaut mode in Call of Duty with the leader earning points while being hunted by other players. Survival is similar to Versus, except players have a set number of lives. Capture the Quill is a standard and enjoyable take on the CTF formula. Simply reaching the set score limit isn't enough in Versus, as the leader must escape through a tear that appears in the book.
The action can be fierce in Paperbound, but the game should be played in short bursts. The small amount of game modes, and the lack of online multiplayer restricts the longevity of the title. If you are able to gather a few friends, Paperbound will provide an enjoyable old-school arena multiplayer experience for a quick hour or so.Note: Paperbound was reviewed on PlayStation 4. A digital copy of the game was provided by the publisher/developer.