Every now and then a peculiar game comes along that redefines your outlook on gaming genres. It’s usually hard to define these types of games because they seldom fit into a neat little box. Well, the box of horrors that is Kartong: Death by Cardboard! takes what you think you know about puzzle VR games and turns it entirely on its head. Because while Karton: Death by Cardboard does fall somewhere within the limits of an escape-the-room puzzle game, it takes that description and laughs at it. In a creepy, diabolical way.
Created by SVRVIVE Studios, Kartong: Death by Cardboard! is a first-person shooter puzzle game, with stealth elements that fully released for Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Windows Mixed Reality headsets last week, after being in early access for 5 months. I tried the game on a Vive and while I sort of knew what to expect going in, the game still surprised me with its impressively detailed environments and unique gameplay. One thing that did stick out though, is the “death” part in the name. Mainly because death (the player’s death) is a prevalent part of the game, even after you’ve gotten the hang of the mechanics.
Check out my gameplay video:
Kartong: Death by Cardboard! differentiates itself instantly from other games through its unique theme and gameplay. In the game you’re shrunk down to the level of a toy who is trapped in a maze-like city made of cardboard. You’re not alone though, since the YouTuber, called Sven, who shrunk you down also created various weird experiments to hunt you down in this little city he’s created. There are also cameras, tips written in chalk, and various traps and collectibles that will help or hinder you on your way.
I really loved the setting in Kartong: Death by Cardboard! because the game’s atmosphere does a really good job of making you feel out of place in a strange new world. Which is something that VR games aspire to but generally fail at. But everything in Kartong: Death by Cardboard! has been meticulously designed to make the player feel tiny and a little bit scared. From the cute but creepy decor, to the large trap elements that would be small items in everyday use, to the constant prying eyes of Sven through his cameras. Not to mention the skulking enemy contraptions that slink around almost every corner. Everything works together seamlessly to create a world that pulls you into its tiny clutches.
Sneaking Towards A Trap
Stealth is a big aspect of Kartong: Death by Cardboard! and most of the gameplay is geared towards that. The locomotion options include teleportation and smooth locomotion. While I usually prefer smooth locomotion, the teleportation in this game is actually the better option for me because it works with the stealth mechanic. Instead of simply teleporting everywhere, it lets you choose your next point via a line of arrows that will ‘charge up’ in a few seconds until you release the button and teleport to the spot you chose. This charge feature allows you to be sneaky because if you wait for the blue charge to fully reach your destination circle then you’ll be more silent and won’t trigger traps as easily.
But if things come to a fight then the game has you covered here as well. There are various weapons to find in the game but the first, and probably the main one is a little hand crossbow. The game provides various ammo for this, including matches that you can light up, and needle pins. Most enemies take one or two shots to down but they do respawn so you usually only have a small window of safety even after killing all the enemies in a region. That said, each level has its own type of monstrosity to face and they all behave differently as well.
A Creepy But Fun Challenge
What makes Kartong: Death By Cardboard! truly fun (but also very hard) is that it has a steep learning curve and the levels are procedurally generated. So I could start getting the hang of things, finally kill an enemy by luring it into a trap and then the next time I play everything will be different, meaning I’ll have to adjust my strategy again. However, this isn’t a bad thing (even though it can be frustrating) because it definitely adds a lot of replayability to the game, which is something that’s sadly lacking in many VR games out there.
Though the learning curve isn’t the only thing that makes this game quite the challenge. It also boasts respawning enemies – so even if you kill all of the enemies in a location, you’re only safe for a short time – and limited ammo which means it’s pretty hard to kill all of the enemies if you aren’t fast and lucky. But there are some collectibles that will help you through a level hidden in boxes scattered throughout each level. Things like maps, gears, and glasses that will help you see enemy outlines even behind walls all help to make things just a little easier. Plus resetting traps and waiting behind them for enemies to see me has worked well on many an occasion too.
I also really enjoyed the stealth aspect of the game, especially because there aren’t many good VR titles out there that rely on stealth. Plus Budget Cuts is still a month away and I can replay the demo only so many times. So this is a great title if you want to get a good stealth fix.
Get Your Stealth Fix
So if you’re looking for a truly unique game with lots of different elements, including escaping a maze, light puzzle elements like finding switches to turn off traps or finding gears to escape the level, as well as some action against creepy contraptions then you absolutely have to try this game.
Kartong: Death by Cardboard! is available now on Viveport for HTC Vive, on Steam for HTC Vive, Oculus Rift and Windows Mixed Reality headsets at $13.99, and on the Oculus Store for Oculus Rift at $8.99.