What it is about: “Papers, Please is a Dystopian Document Thriller.
The communist state of Arstotzka has ended a 6-year war with neighboring Kolechia and reclaimed its rightful half of the border town, Grestin.
Your job as immigration inspector is to control the flow of people entering the Arstotzkan side of Grestin from Kolechia. Among the throngs of immigrants and visitors looking for work are hidden smugglers, spies, and terrorists. Using only the documents provided by travelers and the Ministry of Admission’s primitive inspect, search, and fingerprint systems you must decide who can enter Arstotzka and who will be turned away or arrested.”
The Looks: Papers, Please is a simple game working with three panels of view. The area outside is shown from above in very simple bit graphics, the people in line, the border, guards, and your office. The lower left is a first person perspective that showcases the window where people give you their papers. They are simple but clear enough to see the differences between them each person, you can even hang certificates and whatnot behind them on the wall. Then the largest section is relegated to your desk surface where you manage rulebooks, passports and entry papers, and the end all, the accept or deny stamps.
What You Hear: As the game opens the title screen marches in, fitting to the atmosphere of the game. The voices mean nothing, just warbled noises, so text is present, then there are grenade explosion sounds. It all fits the games grim atmosphere.
The Enjoyment: Papers, Please is a thought provoking game as you deal with moral choices and how they affect the people you interact with. The game looks at a slice into this world and how it affects the cultures and countries surrounding it. The player is an immigration inspector passing judgment on who can enter, and who cannot. Take bribes, help political parties, read cyphers, destroy or help families, all in a days work in an Arstotzka checkpoint. Your motivation for a good days success is earning enough money in processing people to take care of your family. You have to pay the bills, make essential upgrades to your desk, and get better housing. Make a few wrong decisions and get enough penalties and you might have to sacrifice heating or food to afford medicine for your dying son. All this leads to those times when you are offered a bribe. Take it and risk getting caught and being labeled a traitor to the state and being imprisoned, or take it and supply medicine and food to your family for weeks. These decisions help to make what would essential be a boring game, very immersive, one to which I found myself playing for hours. Once you start getting upgrades you kind of get a little excited as something that was time consuming is now replaced with a simple button press or a double-click.
You train yourself to process and remember the rules. Invading someone privacy to check to see if they are carrying hidden weapons becomes commonplace. People become numbers, another person to earn more credits and provide for your family, as you are forced to survive. It is essentially showing you how someone can “just go along with it”.
I do not normally go for games like this. The game really makes you thinks about the bureaucracy and how you start doing these things to the people without regard for them. At a certain point I started rebelling, and carefully calculating letting in people who would otherwise be denied using a few of my free penalties. The game makes you really think after processing so many people following the rules and ruining lives.
More could be said about the game but not without ruining the experience.
The Good: This is by far the most intriguing and immersive simulation game I have played of its kind. Your choices keep you playing out of curiosity to see them resolve.
The Bad: Somewhat tedious, but necessary as its repetition helps you get better and faster at inspecting documents.
The Ugly: Replayability is low, but can be worth it if only to see more endings.
Find more info at the official website Papers, Please