Papers, Please is an indie game created by Lucas Pope. The game is about an immigration officer as he operates a border checkpoint. At first glance it sounds like a very dull game and its hard to imagine it was actually nominated for various awards. After playing it for a few minutes I started to understand what all the hype was about. There’s a lot more depth to Papers, Please than what initially meets the eye.
The game play is simple enough. You’re put in charge of a border checkpoint to enter the fictional country of Arstotzka. Once the day begins, people will begin to come forward and as the immigration officer, you are in charge of making sure that all the people trying to get into the country have legitimate documents. Interestingly enough, the player not only has to deal with missing documents but also with detaining terrorists and wanted criminals. If you fail to do so, the government issues you a citation and docks your pay. At first this may seem like nothing but that sort of has to do with why this game did as well as it did. At the end of the day, you get payed and have to distribute your pay between rent, food, and medicine for your family. This little detail adds a great deal of stress and complexity of the game. The extra objective to take care of your family forces the player to think twice before denying a bribe or helping out terrorist who plan on rewarding you. There are pros and cons to every choice you take as you accept or deny people entrance to the country. As the game progresses, the criteria to let people into the country gets tougher and tougher making it harder to get through people.
There are not many things that are wrong with the game. Being an indie video game makes certain things more acceptable such as its 16-bit style. A problem that struck me right away is the fact that there are not many prompts as to how you’re supposed to play until you realize that there is a rule book that you are supposed to follow. Thankfully, the game gives you enough margin for error that allows the player to make mistakes and learn from them. The absence of a full soundtrack was also strange but fits in with the tone that the game is trying to make. Another thing that bothered me was that the color pallet seemed a little dull but once again, this only reinforced the bleak setting of the game.
Papers, Please is a surprisingly entertaining game. For fans of the indie game scene, this is a game that is worth looking into. Its resource management combined with its timed puzzle elements are pretty refreshing to see and provide a good challenge for anyone. Not only do the simple visuals deliver a good tone for the game, the story that’s woven throughout will keep you hooked and have you questioning your morality as you decide what benefits the country and what benefits your family.
TL;DR: Surprisingly engaging game with a pretty good replay value. The $9.99 price tag seems a little steep but it’s not a bad investment.
Rockit Raccoon Rating: 7.8/10