When a friend told me about Papers, Please, I was skeptical. A game that involves looking through documents at the border checkpoint and searching for discrepancies? Sounds very much like real life paperwork — that is, incredibly boring. But she was really excited by this title from Lucas Pope, so I decided to give it a try.
Turned out there’s indeed something about this game that hooks you.
You and your family live in a totalitarian country called Arstotzka. The regime resembles both Eastern Bloc and Orwell’s Oceania with their ministries often acting ridiculously and changing rules every other day. You work as an immigration inspector who checks documents at the border, stamps Approved or Denied marks and sometimes presses the Detain button.
Soon, you are approached by the members of resistance (called EZIC in the game) and you start helping them sabotage the regime. Officers as well as other people might also ask you for favors (such as letting their loved ones in), but you’ve got to be careful, because each of your cover-ups will get you a citation and after a few of those you need to pay a penalty.
In Papers, Please you’ve got to balance your actions to avoid execution and support your family, while still helping the guys from resistance. Of course, you can also simply play as a loyal citizen and get Glory to Arstotzka badge, but I thought that would be too easy.
The fun part here is the ever-changing requirements for entry. As the game progresses, the requirements get more and more complicated, so you end up cross-checking multiple documents while keeping in mind a whole bunch of other things to check, such as valid dates, correct issuing cities, special documents needed for diplomats, etc. And on top of that you have a time limit— you don’t get paid for checking papers after 6 PM, but you’ve got to do it anyway if you haven’t finished your job on time.
Controls and graphics
Fortunately, you don’t have to compare the documents just by eye. There’s a special inspection mode that you can use to highlight the details you want to compare:
You can also spend some of your money on booth upgrades and have quick access to certain features with hot keys.
There isn’t much in terms of resource management: after each day you’re simply shown a table of expenses where you can make some adjustments like get some extra stuff or upgrade your booth.
The game has 20 possible endings, some of which are quite easy to get. I personally got about 4 of them. I played on PC but this game would be great to play on a tablet and as it turns out, it is actually available for iPad.
I think that games of puzzles like Papers, Please, Life is Strange or L.A. Noire will never lose their appeal, since our minds simply enjoy finding discrepancies (makes us feel smart, I guess). So if you’re looking for a nice pixel game to spend 2-3 short evenings on, consider Papers, Please.
I can easily imagine someone saying that Papers, Please is not deep or complicated enough but I’m not sure that I like games which overwhelm me with details. Say, Trine 2 doesn’t say that much either, but it’s still a very enjoyable game to play.