Papers, Please – Review
PC (Reviewed on), OS X
August 8, 2013
In the cold winter of 1982 the nation of ‘Arstotzka’ and you are one of the lucky few to win a job working for the government as an Immigrations Clerk. You call up people to the desk and greet them with ‘Papers, please.’ The travelers hands you their passport, which you inspect with a daily set of rules that only grow more complex and apply either the stamp of approval or denial managing the dreams of 8 bit characters in the rubber and ink on your desk. Like your job in the real world each day brings new rules and procedures you need to follow. Challenge you to find a balance between financial opportunities and moral dilemmas. But amongst all this the only thing that is of utmost importance is your family whose well-being is the prime motivator for your actions.
As per the games description “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.”
This game is all about its people and choices. Do you wish to separate a couple because of some lacking paperwork that came into effect today, or do you allow the friendly and jolly drug dealer to continue smuggling drugs as long as he gives you a cut. The addictive for the game comes from simple concepts such as a Sense of getting better at what we do. The rules grow more complex but you start to develop a rhythm that allows you to do more with more efficiency making you feel rewarded for improving as you are paid per transaction. The choices that you make are more than just window dressing as your choices make for international events as well as affect the individuals who tell you their story at the counter while you check their documents.
The game may not look great but the story is often very dark in parts, considering the choice, you make, over Heat or Food to keep alive. The stories of the immigrants may even compel you to break the rules and admit them, even if it costs you medicine for your sick son. All these leaves you questioning yourself, and your morals. This gameplay is a bit mundane, at times, but there are moments that are both stressful and interesting making for a very satisfying experience.
While some of the sound effect are great like the sound of the morning horn to mark the beginning of your day, The “music” is just one track which makes it sad as it add so much to the atmosphere, but I wish there were more that provoked more subtle undertones to the story.
Often times your desk will be so crowded with loose papers and you will find you time wasted while shuffling several document over to find the right one. Although it is there as a known mechanic to make the everyday task more cumbersome, I felt like the paper checking was not the reason I was invested in the game and it was merely a task I had to complete to get more of the story.
The game is divided into 31 days in all and there are 20 different endings. Some are small variations of others. The game relies heavy on the branching story and as such after beating the game about 4-5 times and possibly seeing half of the possible endings there isn’t much reason for you to come back to the game. Mistakes become easier with time as more documents are required, rules change and people make special requests to you for favors. This helps to spice up the same repetitive nature but it’s also incredibly similar.
The first two misses or oversights in a day only get you a warning but soon you will be abusing this system to make money and carry out the plots and amongst all this you will stop asking yourself the question was that right thing to do. Sadly, not everyone will be able to look past the bulk of the games main mechanic, which is to reviewing documents, consulting a rulebook check for discrepancies. Within a few hours double checking document becomes boring.
This is a puzzle game like none before it and hence make for an innovative and unique experience but as such people are not always looking for such heavy drama in their games. So my recommendation would be to try the free beta demo for the game and if you like it buy it over at steam of GOG. Link – Free beta (or demo)