Review: Kartong – Death by Cardboard
A weirdly imaginative horror filled puzzler.
It’s not often that VRFocus comes across a virtual reality (VR) title that blends several genres into one unique immersive experience. But that’s exactly what’s happened with Kartong – Death by Cardboard, a puzzle, horror, first-person shooter (FPS) style videogame from SVRVIVE Studios, the team behind the equally good puzzle adventure SVRVIVE: The Deus Helix.
Kartong – Death by Cardboard puts you in a surreal, almost Alice in Wonderland like cardboard world, with the story going that you’ve been shrunk down by some evil genius and put in this cardboard hell hole with one goal, survive. To do this you’re given very little instruction apart from the basic controller mechanics, so it’s mostly a trial by error (death) scenario as you find your feet and plenty of items to help you through.
Mixing horror with child-like design, Kartong – Death by Cardboard is one of the creepiest VR titles around. The whole cardboard aesthetic looks awesome, leaning towards that kind of off centre Tim Burton feel, with wonky houses, teddy bears with pins sticking out of them, giant matchstick boxes and surprise presents everywhere. It’s these presents that can spell success or failure, offering you treats like nailguns or rocket launchers, but on the flip side bombs that can explode in your face, or giant alarms to warn nearby enemies.
And it’s the hostiles running about the place that you really need to watch out for. Each level is randomly generated and isn’t really that big. However they are complete mazes with dead ends and traps galore, which you can set off or try to use on an enemy. The creatures in Kartong – Death by Cardboard are vicious, warped creations that stomp and whizz around each level. There aren’t many of them as there doesn’t need to be, once they’ve spotted you they’ll attack without hesitation barraging towards you until either it or you are dead.
Due to the ferocity of these attacks sneaking is a good way to traverse each area, and SVRVIVE has thankfully put in several movement options. Of course there’s teleport, yet for Kartong – Death by Cardboard it has dual functionality. Activate teleport and a red arrow marker will appear, meaning you can noisily move to the designated location. Hold the teleport button down a little longer and those red arrows will begin to turn blue. Once they’ve all changed colour then you can move silently. It’s a novel little system which certainly increases the dramatic effect of the experience as you carefully inch around a level. It does have a big downside, if you’re short on ammo or weapons and need to hide – or just quickly traverse a trap filled area – then this system is horrendously slow, and you’ll probably fight more battles than you want. Luckily there are smooth locomotion controls which can be used in conjunction with teleport. Being able to directly control your character makes life so much easier on all fronts.
There are points when Kartong – Death by Cardboard can feel repetitious and samey, constantly running around cardboard mazes, either hiding in sheer terror or barrelling in, your pin loaded crossbow at the ready. Yet this dark, twisted fantasy world has a charm all of its own, both equally scary and wondrous at the same time. Kartong – Death by Cardboard is one of those VR titles that impressively showcase the imagination of smaller indie studios and why they’re the life blood of VR. If you think you can handle it, Kartong – Death by Cardboard is definitely one of the more bizarre titles available today.