Indie Review: Papers, Please
Papers, Please is one of those fine surprises that comes along once in a while - read further to find out more.
- Worth The Time?Yes - no questions asked.
- Things LovedThe unique and captivating feel for such a small game; The well laid-out interface; The sense of urgency; The music and sounds; The unpredictability; The ability to have you distrusting everyone's intentions; The different ways your current game can swiftly end if you're not careful; Everything.
- Things HatedNothing.
- RecommendationI recommend this for every gamer out there. I convinced a non-gamer to give it a try and that person truly enjoyed it.
- Name: Papers, Please
- Genre: Dystopian Document Thriller
- Players: 1
- Multiplayer: No
- Platforms: PC, Mac
- Developer: Lucas Pope
- Publisher: Lucas Pope
- Price: $10 (Roughly R100 - R120)
- Reviewed On: PC
The game industry is full of surprises.
Indie games have surprised me time and time again – more so than the triple-A game-birthing factory. Independent developers have considerably more control over their creative input and in most cases that is one aspect that makes it a winner.
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Papers, Please is a game that completely slipped underneath my radar and I’m ashamed to say that – taking into account how it unexpectedly sank its hooks into my cranium while providing little mercy or chance of letting go. (For a more dramatic and bleak introduction, please gander over to this link and read the first bit while I check your papers and moisten either my green or red stamp. That sounded a little dicey, don’t you think?)
We take on the role of a border inspector whose name was drawn in the Labor Lottery. You are tasked to either approve passersby or deny them access to the “Glorious Country of Arstotzka”. This might sound like a menial task, but do take heed that the increasing amount of rules and paperwork mixed together with the barrage of subtle moral situations you are presented with will eventually seem rather overwhelming as the in-game days go by.
The gameplay starts off very simplistic and you have one rule to start with – approve Arstotzkan citizens with a valid passport and deny all foreigners. With each passing day a new set of rules must be taken into account and this will eventually lead to the player making such trivial, yet easily looked-over mistakes.
The booth you are tasked to work in is quite small in size and the interface definitely provides us with that cramped-up feel, without it ever being perceived as an interface that needed some more thought put into. The players view is very subtly divided into segments – one of the S-shaped seemingly endless line steadily crawling closer to the booth you occupy, a window where you see the person whose documents you are going over and your “desk” where the documents need to be dragged to in order to examine them. It works really well and I’ll say again that it genuinely captures the essence of you being in a small confined space – forced to do efficient work.
Speaking of work, many people I’ve talked to about the game say that it sounds more like a virtual job than an actual game. It will definitely appear to be the case when the game is glanced at from a distance, but one must take note that it is certainly fun to play. Getting through a day without the sound of a tumultuous printer typing your every mistake is an absolute joy and you feel a palpable sense of accomplishment.
The visual aesthetic of the game looks like that of a very old game and the same can be said about the sound – this compliments the vibe and goal of the game surprisingly well. Your voice calling “NEXT!” from the speakers above your checkpoint and menu music adds to the overall experience more than one would think. The sounds are minimal, but fit within the game unlike any real dialogue would’ve fit.
You’ll encounter a mysterious “cult” or no-jokes officer; high up the food-chain of your current employers and a peculiar foreigner trying his luck over and over again. All of these interesting aforementioned characters will often visit the border checkpoint asking for favours or give you commands on when to disobey your given set of rules. You do this at the expense of you daily pay. You are paid by the amount of people you either approve or deny during any given day.
You use your daily pay to afford rent, food for your family and heat – seeing as how this communist country clearly lack a steady flow of sunshine. Getting through the game with your job intact and your family still breathing is no trivial accomplishment. You may need to afford an unexpected expense and this also adds to the urgency of processing enough people without making unnecessary mistakes – which will be deducted from your income after the first two citations for that day.
Whenever someone has fishy paperwork or suspicious vibe surrounding them like a group of flies circling a recently excreted cabbage head, you can use your rule book to indicate the discrepancy and detain the cabbage-head as a result. You’ll also have to deal with people having a possible alias, which can be resolved through handing them a piece of paper to provide their set of fingerprints. Whenever someone’s details indicate a different weight; you may search them to make sure they are not carrying any type of contraband. There are lots of different little surprises along the way, but I’ll leave that for you to find out and decide on how you want to handle the situation.
Throughout the game, you’ll learn to distrust everyone. You may expose yourself by helping these various individuals and the results are something I leave for you to find out.