Vicinity Games' Papercraft forgoes any kind of in-depth story or narration in favor of a more straight-to-the-point goal: you have 1-hour (game time) in which to rack up $50,000 and buy a defense turret to defend your base from the impending enemy invasion. This cash is acquired by flying missions to various depots around the area and gathering up cargo (which is then sold, presumably) before the enemy does. Each trip takes a certain amount of time to fly there and back to your home base, so the game is about more than just “fly here, now fly here.”
There’s a bit of a strategy element involved with choosing from which site you’ll be getting resources, as you can only fly out so far and collect so much with each trip. Additionally, the cash you collect can be spent to make it possible to collect more, fly further, or faster, but you’re spending the same money you need to win. There’s a real give-and-take element here; what initially seems like a simple game on the surface ends up with a fair amount of depth to it. Do you buy that upgrade to hold more cargo, or go on one more run and save up a bit more?
Once you’ve selected your destination, the fun begins. Flying to and from the depots plays like many twin-stick shooters, including special abilities to help you out of tough situations, a shield that absorbs some of the damage, and a few homing missiles. Where the twist comes into play is that many of these abilities can be adjusted when needed. Feel like a little more speed and defense? Not a problem. Time to up the firepower? Sure thing. All three are managed by something known as the Tactical Triangle; a heads-up display brought up with the left bumper that allows you to determine your own balance between speed, defense, and firepower. This can be adjusted at any time during a mission, and, in addition to being a fun strategic element in solo play, really increases the co-op experience.
When teaming up with your friends to gather resources, achieving that lofty goal of $50,000 gets a little bit easier as the Tactical Triangle system allows each player to customize his or her paper flyer just how he or she wants. This provides better overall coverage as you can have the fast and deadly attack plane paired up with a slight slower moving, but better defended, one. Each player can further upgrade his or her fighter using the “tech points” that are accumulated during missions to improve how much energy can be diverted through the Tactical Triangle to the different elements. These “tech points” are also used to purchase and upgrade the special weapon attacks. While each player can upgrade his or her paper aircraft however he or she sees fit, only the first player can make the determination about where to spend the cash for “fleet upgrades,” i.e., being able to store more cargo, and fly further/faster. Should a player's plane take too much damage during a mission, he or she can be saved by one of the other players. Upon a player's death, his or her plane ejects the plane's reactor core, which can be collected by another player who is then prompted to use one of the face buttons to bring the friend back to life.
A co-op squad of paper fighters
Papercraft’s only two flaws are that all of this progress and upgrading cannot be saved, and having multiple players doesn’t mean you can store more cargo amongst all of the players. Regarding the former, once you start a game, you have to play through until you finish. Fortunately, the game doesn’t take an extremely long time to complete, and it really is fun, it’s just too bad that all that fun has to be experienced all at once. Addressing the latter, while it makes sense from one standpoint to have the cargo just be a base amount towards which all players contribute (i.e., your whole fleet collects the same amount as in the single player campaign), it would also be nice to see each player be able to bring his or her own cargo back from a mission, and maybe increase the total amount of cash needed to achieve victory in order to balance things out a bit.
Despite these two setbacks, Papercraft proves to be yet another one of those great co-op indie gems. From its paper/arts craft style to its innovative, “on-the-fly” plane adjustment system, Papercraft is the perfect choice for any couch co-opers looking to have a great gaming afternoon.
Papercraft is Geared Towards: Twin-stick shooter fans that want a little more than just shooting down all enemies in sight
The Co-Op Experience: Team up with up to three other friends locally in this twin-stick shooter with strategy and RPG elements