Project Kat: Paper Lily Prologue is a promising-looking horror adventure

Project Kat: Paper Lily Prologue is a free playable prologue for an upcoming horror game. And it’s looking very good indeed — so let’s take a closer look at what we can enjoy right now.

When you decide to make a horror game, you have some important decisions to make. Are you going to go for jumpscares or a more unsettling vibe? Shock or psychological horror? Happy, bittersweet or tragic endings? And, perhaps most importantly, how are you going to present your horror? Are you going to go for relative realism, something mildly stylised but still semi-realistic a la Chilla’s Art, or are you going to fully embrace the fact you’re making a video game rather than a movie?

Project Kat

Everything about Project Kat so far suggests that developer Leef 6010 has been thinking very carefully about all of these things. And the result is a very solidly put together horror game — or a prologue, anyway — that sets up an intriguing premise and some likeable characters and acts as a great teaser for what is to come next.

In Project Kat, we take on the role of Kat, a high school girl with a healthy degree of skepticism over the supernatural. As the story opens, we see her walking in on the school’s Occult Club playing with a ouija board, and she is only too quick to offer a perfectly rational, scientific explanation of the phenomena that many people witness in such a situation.

At the same time, though, it seems that Kat has showed up at the school after hours completely separately from the Occult Club, and that she has every intention of performing a supposed “Golden Envelope” ritual to the letter. At the outset of the game, it’s not entirely clear why she’s doing this, but after spending just a little time with her, it becomes apparent that she’s hoping to debunk the whole thing. It’s not the first supposed “ritual” she has discovered the truth behind and, she figures, it probably won’t be the last, either. Or will it?

Project Kat

The bulk of Project Kat: Paper Lily Prologue involves taking control of Kat as she attempts to prepare for the ritual. There are a number of steps she needs to accomplish in order to fully follow the instructions given in the “Golden Envelope”, and there are several means of achieving these objectives. The prologue has eight different endings according to the various choices it’s possible to make along the way — though much like the game’s obvious inspiration Corpse Party, only one is considered to be the “true” ending that moves the story along.

Unusually for a game like this, there’s a much more “hands-on” feel to the interaction rather than simply finding event triggers and watching things unfold. When a step in the ritual requires Kat to arrange the desks in her school classrooms in a particular way, for example, there’s a Sokoban-style minigame as you push them into place. And Kat doesn’t use items automatically if you just stand in the right place at the right time — you have to make a specific choice to use them from your inventory.

This is because of the aforementioned choices, and the fact that there are often several different ways to accomplish a task. When confronted with a locked door, will you use a key you acquired (via either legitimate or underhanded means) or pick the lock? When the ritual calls for a lock of hair, will you snip it off yourself, clip a convenient bit off the girl with the long ponytail or find an alternative solution? When loaned something useful, will you give it back or keep it for yourself?

Project Kat

Project Kat is full of interesting situations and little questions like this, and it constantly keeps you wondering if what you did was the “right” thing. The fact that Kat presents herself as something of a morally ambiguous character really helps with this, too; she’s neither “nice” nor “nasty” at her core, but rather she’s an eminently practical sort of person who is willing to do what is necessary to achieve her goals — even if that means stepping on a few toes.

Project Kat rewards curiosity, too; you can simply do what the objective list tells you to and make progress, but you’ll get a greater understanding of what is going on — or at the very least some additional context — if you explore the environments and experiment a bit with the objects you have on hand.

It’s pleasing quite how much Leef 6010 has catered to this type of player, in fact — pretty much everything you can stand in front of will elicit some sort of response from the narrator or Kat when you press the “interact” button, and in many cases you’ll find that making unprompted interactions will result in something interesting happening.

Project Kat

A good example concerns some cardboard boxes and a pair of scissors. As part of the ritual preparation, Kat needs to retrieve some items from a pile of cardboard boxes — but they’re sealed up with tape. Upon finding a pair of scissors with which to cut the tape, she locates the item in question, but the scissors remain in her inventory. As such, should you happen to stumble across any other cardboard boxes that are also sealed up with tape, you still have the means to open them — and you most certainly can.

This level of interactivity and environmental detail is quite rare for this sort of game — particularly a narrative-centric one — and it makes the experience feel very rewarding without bogging down the story progression too much. Couple this with some very clever environmental tricks, where maps “change” in various ways as you’re traversing them, and you have a game that does a great job of immersing you in its setting and keeping you very much on edge as things progress.

Project Kat: Paper Lily Prologue is only short; it’ll take you about 45 minutes to play through for the first time, then a little longer if you want to seek out all the alternative endings. But that was enough to get me thoroughly intrigued in the story and invested in the fate of the various characters — the catchy, atmospheric music, excellent character art and lovely pixel graphics were just the icing on the cake, really.

Project Kat

As such, I can’t wait to see where this is going next. Sadly there doesn’t appear to be an ETA for the upcoming “Chapter 1” of the game as yet, but keep an eye on Leef 6010’s Twitter for the latest updates. And try the prologue for yourself on Steam or Itch!

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Pete Davison
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