The Musical Box #28: Sometimes, One Note is Enough

The Musical Box features 30 articles focusing on game music production and implementation. Edition #28: Papers, Please

The Musical Box series features a lot of games, but, truth be told, most of them are very complex and expensive products, created by the top developers of the game industry. This doesn’t mean that indies don’t create something unique and original. On the contrary, indie developers are probably the most innovative and creative people in this industry, and they also have the ability to take risks that big companies normally don’t.

This edition is dedicated to a very intriguing indie game and its superb music. The name of the game is Papers, Please.

Game: Papers, Please.
Released: 2013 (Windows and Mac OSX)
Developer: Lucas Pope

The Set-Up

You are an immigration inspector at the border of a fictitious country, similar to the USSR in the 80’s. Your job is to analyze all documents in detail, pointing out any discrepancies as fast as you can. The more people you correctly approve, the more money you get. Performing a good job is crucial since you need this money to take care of your family.

If you judge the game by its plot, you may think this is probably the most boring game ever made. But Papers, Please is astonishingly good, fun and creative. Lucas Pope was able to flawlessly turn this crazy idea into a game that even non-players may find interesting. The gameplay is simple enough, but still challenging: click on the fields on each document to find the incorrect information. But doing that when the clock is ticking is pretty challenging!

The music is spot on and matches perfectly with the overall mood and the art of the game. The intro is the best example to illustrate how good these simple ideas can be when they’re executed with precision and passion.

In the very beginning of the game, there’s just a black screen with a BGM that sounds like a military march. After a few seconds, the logo of the game appears and moves to the center of the screen. The most important aspect of this appearance is that the logo moves in sync with the music, emphasizing the strong accents of the theme and evoking the funniest moment I had with a game in 2013.

The Moment

Watch the intro for Papers, Please at the link below.

The Impact

Not a lot of games are able to communicate so much in so little time. I had no idea what the gameplay would be like, but after watching the intro with that music and the logo in sync, I was sure I was playing something really different and special. My first impression of the game was: “This game must be funny, sarcastic, tense and mysterious”. And I was impressed to realize that Papers, Please was all that and much more.

If game music  is supposed to emphasize the mood of a game experience, then the opening theme of Papers, Please was able to do that in a few seconds. This may sound simple, but it’s actually one of the hardest things to do in a game. Pope not only did that, he  nailed it. After Papers, Please, Pope will probably have free access to any company in the amazing realm of the game industry.

Special thanks: Gilliard Lopes, Rafael Kuhnen, Fernando Secco, Sandro Tomasetti, and Fabiano Pimenta.

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