My Beautiful Paper Smile
Developer: Two Star Games
Publisher: V Publishing
Genre: Survival Horror
Age Rating: 16
Release Date: 19/06/2020
A code was provided for review purposes.
An Experience in Survival Horror
As a fan of horror games, the chance to review a game like My Beautiful Paper Smile was one I could not pass up on.
I knew nothing about the title before it landed in my lap, but a bit of research showed that there was quite some interest in the game through its development. I was afforded the ability to play and review all four chapters.
Now, I should say from the start that my machine was not the most optimum. This is the first Steam title (read PC game) that I have reviewed, and while the laptop I inherited should have the capability to run the game, I did encounter consistent sluggish behavior. I investigated this quite thoroughly and it was indeed the machine and the not the game that caused the trouble. However, with that in mind, I shall refrain from commenting on performance beyond saying that even with my sluggish machine, I never encountered any bugs or errors that impacted the gameplay itself.
But, did My Beautiful Paper Smile leave me grinning from ear or ear, or did it leave my frown pointing down? Keep reading this rapid review and you will find out.
A Beautiful Horror Experience
I just loved the art style of this game. The hand-drawn, pen and ink look just worked so well. The game itself is a creepy one, with the concept of children being kept in a heavily guarded facility and forced to wear a smile all day long. Tested, to make sure nothing could beak their happy disposition. Except, there is no happiness. It is all a mask.
For some, the graphic choice of this game may be a little too bizarre, but I thoroughly enjoyed them. They lend themselves perfectly to the general theme of the game and brought out the truly horrific undertones that ran throughout. Eerie, creepy, nightmarish. There are a great many darkly connotated superlatives that can be used to capture this games aesthetic. Each would be warranted in my mind.
In fact, I think anything even remotely more realistic would have detracted from the weirdness. The story and the style deserved one another. Like a Tim Burton movie or a Terry Gilliam animation. Were there alternative styles out there? Yes. Would they have been as effective? No.
This game was an experience. Something different, willing to not so much push the boundaries, for there was nothing revolutionary in it, but unafraid to stand there and say, I am not like the ones that came before.
Atmospheric Sounds Leave No Room for a Soundtrack
I have commented time and time again in my reviews that I am not the biggest music person, and even in a game I love, the soundtrack is often the one thing that passes me by. Even when it is a perfect fit for the game, it remains the first thing to slip from my mind.
It is when the developers that use sound effects to create an atmosphere that I get truly drawn in and invested in the audio.
My Beautiful Paper Smile makes fantastic use of atmosphere, both in terms of graphics and sound effects to help build a world that draws you in and has you playing with held breath.
While creepy, and everything you want in a horror title, the gam retained something else. A combination of intrigue and depth. You knew you had to stay on the move and avoid detection, yet you had the urge to explore. You wanted to see what was out there.
Don’t Lose Your Smile
You play the game as the character of a child. One of the Joyous. You start chapter 1 inside a facility where you are forced to wear a smile every second of the day. Regularly tested you must withstand every emotion put in your way. Failure will result in being taken by the guards and lost to the sleep chamber.
Chapter by chapter the story and the mystery grows, and the game explores a range of themes cleverly woven into an intriguing storyline.
The game works in two ways. One it pulls you along through the sometimes maze-like levels, giving you enough clues in the level design to make it clear where you need to go, while at the same time rewards those that are willing to explore.
I really enjoyed taking my time and exploring the levels, opening doors, and hunting down the little extras, which in turn reward you with unlockable areas that offered a little bit more story and some nice achievements.
The game was well designed and laid out, with stretches that played out almost without incident. Islands of solace surrounded by a tense ocean. You are not fast enough to simply outrun every enemy and most of the challenges require a good level of thought.
Played from a third-person perspective you are largely free to explore the world at your leisure.
Smile for the Camera
There are several achievements that can be unlocked in the game; for surviving, for getting captured, for allowing the darkness to claim you.
For the achievement hunters out there, the game has plenty to offer. Especially for those that love a challenge. Willing to take the time and fully explore or replay sections over and over.
On top of the achievements, each chapter presents several chapter-specific collectibles. Each one has a different multiple hidden within the level. Collecting them all grants access to locked rooms and extra content. It is only small stuff, but it’s a nice reward for those willing to invest the time.
Keeping Your Need to Smile
While I enjoyed playing My Beautiful Paper Smile, I don’t really have any urge to return to that world. It’s not for any negative reasons, but I explored it quite a lot during one playthrough. Besides chasing down achievements or those last few collectibles, I don’t think there is any need to give it a second playthrough.
If you are an achievement hunter, then I can see reason to replay the game. It’s just not really my style. At least, not while I have more games to review as well as a growing backlog of my own.
Grinning from Ear to Ear
I really enjoyed my playthrough of this game. It’s a shame that my laptop just wasn’t good enough to run the game in perfect time. Again, no discredit to the game there, just my hardware.
If you like survival horror games enjoy an interesting story, then this game is definitely worth a try. The dark and sinister art style is also a winner. It shows what can be done with a little creativity and a willingness to try something that breaks the mold.
It is also worth noting that My Beautiful Paper Smile is made by a solo developer, and is their first mainstream project/release. This only serves to make me more interested in the other titles they are going to deliver in the future.
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.