Paws and Soul is a walking simulator game where we explore the Buddhist philosophy of reincarnation and rebirth. Playing as a man who has been reincarnated as a wolf, we venture into a serene forest to find out who he used to be and unlock the secrets of his past life. The Paws and Soul demo (aptly named First Step) was released last month, giving us the chance to play through the first hour of the game and explore the beginning of this calming adventure.
Story – Into the Woods
The Paws and Soul demo gives us a look at the first hour of gameplay, and allows us to get a feel for the game. We begin in a tranquil forest, running around on four paws as we listen to the voice-over contemplate where he is and what happened. We follow the path into the woods and our adventure begins.
After completing the first puzzle, we begin to unlock more of the story. Our journey takes us up into the hills where we meet two ghostly figures: a little girl and her grandmother. We learn that the little girl is upset with her parents as they are too busy to spend time with her, and her grandmother offers her some support. As we venture further, we meet the spirits of a young couple with their newborn child (perhaps the reincarnated man?) and their delight at having a family of their own. Their story doesn’t remain happy for long. As their son grows, they struggle to agree on the best way to raise him. It is suggested that these two sets of spirits have something in common. The demo ends with the story taking a mystical turn as we travel through a cave and end up in a luminescent forest unlike the one we left behind.
The demo opens up an intriguing story as we begin to explore the lives these spirits once led and the troubles they encountered. With each scene that was played out, I was left wanting to know what happened next, how these spirits were connected, and what happened to the man now reincarnated as a wolf.
Gameplay – The First Step
The controls for Paws and Soul are very straight-forward, and the introduction of each mechanic is explained clearly.
The first puzzle we have to solve involves four stones with different coloured runes on them. Investigating close by, we find the four orbs we need and take them back to the rune stones. In the demo, nothing significant happened when I did this, but there may be something I missed or this could be something that will be added into the full game.
We are guided through the forest by orange orbs of life energy that line the paths we need to take. These are easily picked up and collected by running through them. By using the altars we find on the ground, we can spend the life energy we gathered along the way to help the spirits accomplish their goals. It is quite easy to get lost at times, but returning to the life energy trails puts us on the right path again.
An aspect I quite enjoyed were the butterfly mechanics. At certain points, we have to jump across tall rocks to get across the hills. Instead of being able to simply jump across, we have to catch the little glowing butterflies nearby to gain the ability to jump higher and make it across. The limited time of 30 seconds before the ability fades adds a slight sense of urgency to the story, pushing us onwards to our next discovery. We find another type of butterfly after jumping into a deep ditch to access the altar within. Once we’ve activated the altar and helped the spirits, we find a butterfly in a nearby cave, but this one gives us the ability to see things that we can’t with our normal view. After catching it, a hole in the wall is revealed to us that we can use to get out of the ditch. Again, this ability has a cool down limit, so we have to be quick in getting out of there. The butterflies do respawn should we run out of time.
There were some bugs, like the controls being a little bit shaky if you get caught on something, but other than that, the demo runs smoothly.
Graphics and Audio – Calm and Serene
One of the things that I loved about the Paws and Soul demo were the graphics. They aren’t overly-detailed or distracting, which is perfect for a game that aims to focus more on the story and the adventure involved. The environment is calming, and the glow of the runes, the butterflies, and the wolf when we’ve caught a butterfly adds a magical feel to the game. The spirits are presented in a ghostly way that stands out from everything else so that they’re not difficult to miss. The luminescent forest we discover at the end of the demo definitely seems to promise some mystical aspects that we can explore later on in the game.
We also have gentle background noises like birds chirping, the chiming of the butterflies, and general forest-type sounds that contribute to the tranquility of the game. Along with the atmospheric sounds we have voiced characters and subtitled lines, the main voice being the man we hear inside the wolf’s head as he contemplates his situation and shares his thoughts on the scenes the spirits play out.