Paper Ghost Stories: 7PM review

If you’ve spotted this Malaysian horror game on the Xbox Store, perhaps just before reading this review, you’ve doubtlessly noticed that it’s a mere £3.49. There’s a reason behind the low price point; one that you may have guessed already – this is a short prologue for a bigger release (2023’s Paper Ghost Stories: Third Eye Open), intended to introduce the characters and establish the narrative threads.

It does a very good job of setting the tone, in particular. Powered by the Unreal Engine, it features 2D sketchbook-style characters within moderately detailed 3D environments. While the Paper Mario series may instantly spring to mind, the developers are in fact drawing inspiration from Asian paper theatres. It also delves into the Malaysian way of life, with this entire prologue taking place in and around a busy apartment block during different times of the day.

We’re introduced to Ming, Lun, and Wen – three children that play together. Ming is a young girl who always tries to do the right thing. Lun fills the role of the bully archetype – bold, brave and a little boisterous. Nervous and reserved, Wen usually sides with Ming. There’s a chance to become acquainted with all three, albeit briefly, as they take on errands around the apartment block. Before that, though, Ming’s Aunty Fung has a ghost story to share – one that she insists is a true story.

You’re free to explore the block – front and back, as well as three floors – and chat to most of the locals. This often unlocks either a mini-game or some dialogue options that alter the storyline slightly. You’ll get the chance to play ‘Rock, Paper, Scissors’ to win back a valuable Pokémon-esque trading card, help with food orders at a nearby market stool, and choose whether or not to throw pebbles at a window. That’s one of Lun’s ideas, unsurprisingly.

The story centers around choosing whether to pick a locked door or find another way to open it. What lies behind this mysterious door is the prologue’s focal point – Aunt Fung says that a new kid has moved into the block, but our trio of pre-teens soon discover something sinister, resulting in an into-the-screen chase sequence and a couple of jump scares. And that’s our lot. Fade to black.

When the ending credits first rolled, after around 25 minutes of play, our completion rating was around 40%. To see everything a few playthroughs are required, calling for different dialogue choices. Achievement hunters will get the most out of this, as they demand you talk to everyone and play every mini-game. Go for 100% completion and you should be able to squeeze around 2 hours of playtime.

With its likeable characters and intriguing Asian influences, including beings from Malaysian folklore, Paper Ghost Stories successfully manages to set its tone while hinting at events yet to come. It provides a bite-sized slice of horror for the price of a sandwich. Not substantial, but delectable all the same.

Cellar Vault Games’ Paper Ghost Stories: 7PM is out now on Xbox One and Xbox Series. Published by Chorus Worldwide.

Matt Gander

Matt is Games Asylum's most prolific writer, having produced a non-stop stream of articles since 2001. A retro collector and bargain hunter, his knowledge has been found in the pages of tree-based publication Retro Gamer.

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