Halloween means it's time for horror games. The gaming version of the season was already kicked off by Man of Medan, but we're sure to see a lot of indies looking to cash in on the spooks as well. Enter My Beautiful Paper Smile by Two Star Games. This game looks to feature many staples of indie horror - There's a creepy, minimalistic art style, puzzle-solving, and a dark mystery behind it all. Except Two Star Games is looking to separate its game from the pack by tackling a very difficult subject: child imprisonment.
In My Beautiful Paper Smile, children are being held and raised in a secure facility so that they can be made "perfect." Those in charge of the facility seem to view perfection as always smiling, which is why they force all the children to wear masks that are eternally affixed with grins. The "paper smiles" of the title. Players take on the role of one of these children and try to escape.
Again, based solely on the premise, it feels like something other horror games try to do. They drop you into a creepy setting and ask you to find your way out while terrible things chase you. Vicarious assures Paper Smile will provide true psychological horror, however, because it will delve into topics like mental health and children's depression throughout its four chapters.
“My Beautiful Paper Smile will touch everyone when they play through it as it takes on sensitive issues we all acknowledge but never talk about,” said Michael Brown, CEO of the game's publisher Vicarious Publishing. “This title puts childhood experiences of mental health into perspective with horror environments.”
When put that way, it seems the horror elements of the game will act as a metaphor for mental health issues. "The true prison is in our minds" is a phrase one can imagine being associated with this game. It also casts the whole "forced smile" angle in a different light. It all sounds like territory other games have tried to cross into before, only to end up with mixed results. The developers of Paper Smile are in for a challenge if they aim to comment on mental health issues in a meaningful way.