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Published December 4, 2017

Sometimes developers can get carried away with the extravagance of their depictions of locations and events. These days, the grander and more eye-catching the environment, the easier it is to marvel at the graphics and set pieces. But when we dial back what we’re used to, sometimes we tap into something a little more charming, and honest. When we’re focusing on the smaller details, things we might overlook in other video games, we come away with an experience that feels unique and often emotional.

Paperbark follows a wombat’s journey through the Australian bush during a dry, hot summer. In the demo, the wombat is chasing a lizard through the bushland, encountering native animals and obstacles while text narrates the story. The gameplay is slow and ambling, and the gorgeous artwork inspired by classic Australian children’s literature is on full display as you explore the paths through the wonderfully realised versions of Australia’s native bushlands. Fans of Australian artists such as Albert Namatjira, and stories like Possum Magic and Snuggle Pot and Cuddlepie will be overwhelmed with nostalgia.

During my time with the IOS version of Paperbark at PAX 2017, I was struck by just how heartfelt and close to home this really felt. As somebody who has spent my fair share of time in the Australian bushland, from north-eastern Queensland to Victoria, somehow Paperbark has managed to capture the feeling of delicacy and immensity that is unique to the great southern land. The array of native flora and fauna on display is fantastic, but more than that, the use of scientific names adds a learning experience for all demographics.

Paperbark was the final student project by Ryan Boulton, Nina Bennett and Terry Burdak from RMIT University. Thanks to Film Victoria’s Assigned Production Investment Program, they were able to establish their own studio, Paper House. As a result, they were able to bring in musician Biddy Conner, animator Joe Toole from GREE, award winning children’s author Renee Treml, narrative designer Brooke Maggs and KPOW Audio to make Paperbark the gorgeous experience it is today. Set for release in Q1 2018, I’m looking forward to seeing new environments, different stories, and a greater appreciation of the Australian bush.

Find out more about Paperbark on their website.

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