A story about a girl who has a ghost best friend nobody else can see, and has to juggle that relationship with her interactions with living people? Sounds fake. Haha, but seriously folks. There’s a demo for Paper Ghost Stories: Third Eye Open in the Steam Next Fest, and boy howdy did I like just looking at this game in motion. The clue is in the name, as all the characters look like 2D paper cut out dolls, and all the environments are like papercraft models. It’s pretty gorge.
Third Eye Open, out this year, is inspired by the Joss-Papercraft of Southeast Asia (indeed, the start menu is a stage). You play as Ting, a pre-adolescent girl living in Malaysia with her parents. Ting discovers her supernatural ability to see ghosts at a camp, where she meets Xiu, a ghost girl about her own age. The two become friends, and the demo starts in media res when the two are back home.
The bulk of the demo is Ting venturing into a haunted house with her two living, solid friends, wherein they must wrangle with some simple puzzles and a malevolent ghost. There’s a quite annoying insta-fail QTE chase here, but it’s very short, and the whole thing is elevated by how lovely and effective the papercraft art style is. Ghosts are faintly transparent, like they’re made of tracing paper, and almost everything has a little outline of blank white from where it’s been cut out, see?
It’s very relatable in its coming-of-age-ness, as Ting has to deal with Xiu being jealous of her living friends (not for being alive, but for having fun with Ting that she just can’t join in with). It’s also difficult to explain her situation and particular struggles to her parents, who, naturally enough, may be kind, but have trouble taking the whole ghost situation literally. Several of Ting’s peers just outright bully her about it, as you might expect.
At the same time, Third Eye Open doesn’t shy away from being culturally specific, with a lot of Malaysian culture and tradition on display. The game also uses Malaysian dialect “that loosely incorporates Cantonese, Madarin, and Bahasa Melayu slang words, as well as grammatical errors that have become commonplace”, and in practise has footnotes to explain specific terms the first time you encounter them, as do references to, for example, Malaysia-specific companies. This is very cool! Paper Ghost Stories: Third Eye Open is out this year, with a free demo on Steam now.
P.S. Sorry to the developers Cellar Vault Games because I uploaded the header image and on sort of autopilot I saved it as “Third Eye Blind”. It may happen again.