This paper-folding puzzler about leaving home is beautifully, maddeningly satisfying

Paper Trail screenshot with Indie Spotlight logo
(Image credit: Newfangled Games)

There's just something about a good perspective puzzle that really works for me. From Gorogoa to Monument Valley to Viewfinder, if the solution to some in-game puzzle has me twisting and turning exactly how I'm looking at a thing in order to figure it out, I'm happy. Paper Trail from Newfangled Games scratches this same itch in an extremely satisfying way through origami-style puzzles across a beautifully illustrated watercolor world.

The game's narrative, which I won't spoil here, essentially sees players take on the role of Paige as she leaves home for the first time to become an academic of sorts. The frame story plays out like Paige narrating her journey through foldable bits of paper, which include little vignettes in addition to various gameplay sections. But it's all paper and it's all folding.

Matter of perspective

If you happen to spot any gameplay footage of Paper Trail, it might actually come across as a bit overwhelming. There can be a lot of moving parts and different folds, but it actually starts off incredibly simply and builds to that over time in a way that feels exceedingly natural. It doesn't just throw you into the deep end.

At its most basic, Paper Trail's puzzles are square or rectangle-shaped environments with fronts and backs. You can fold corners or sides to create new pathways or potential solutions based on a combination of what's on the back now being on the front. Simple enough, right?

It is! And then it adds locked doors, keys, paths that are only traversable when numbered blocks of the same kind touch, pattern matches, folding multiple environments that are next to each other, moving platforms that only go in certain directions, and more. All of these combine to a wild possible number of variations to shift through in order to find the correct solution.

Often it's not even a one and done kind of thing. Frequently, there are several sets of folding, unfolding, moving, folding again, and so on before you can actually move to the next area. On paper (apologies) that might seem intensely frustrating, but it honestly makes the whole experience that much sweeter when you actually figure it out.

Paper Trail screenshot

(Image credit: Newfangled Games)

There's a definitive logic to it all, and if you can just alter your own perception enough it becomes clear. Getting to the end of any given puzzle is a bit like finally crossing your eyes enough to see the image hidden behind all the noise. Like seeing the green, raining code in The Matrix in that once you can get to that point, the whole game makes that much more sense.

Helpfully, there is a hint system in place. What's interesting about it, however, is that it won't just walk you through the entire puzzle. It only shows the proper folds, in order, and you have to scroll through them each. So if, say, you only need help understanding what the next fold might be, you can do that and move on to solving it yourself rather than being entirely spoiled. And because it doesn't show you where to actually go once the folds are in place or what bits and bobs to move, it does still require a bit of a think from the player regardless.

To me, the best kinds of puzzle games are the ones that leave me feeling satisfied like I've been chewing on something nice and savory. A bit of brain food to eat and digest that ultimately leaves me sated. Frequently, I find that puzzle games overshoot this mark and make me frustrated instead, leaving me feeling less like I understand what's going on and more like I simply tried and failed until I didn't fail. Playing Paper Trail, on the other hand, makes me feel like a genius, and that's not because it's simple – but because it isn't.

Paper Trail is out now on PC via Steam, Nintendo Switch, PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, and on mobile through Netflix Games. To see what other indie gems we've been enjoying so far, be sure to check out our Indie Spotlight series. 

Rollin Bishop
US Managing Editor

Rollin is the US Managing Editor at GamesRadar+. With over 16 years of online journalism experience, Rollin has helped provide coverage of gaming and entertainment for brands like IGN, Inverse,, and more. While he has approximate knowledge of many things, his work often has a focus on RPGs and animation in addition to franchises like Pokemon and Dragon Age. In his spare time, Rollin likes to import Valkyria Chronicles merch and watch anime.