Papers, Please

Well that was… interesting.


Developers: Lucas Pope
PC, OSX (PC reviewed)
puzzle, simulation

Papers, Please is a new indie game from Lucas Pope. In the game, you act as an immigration check point worker. As each person comes through your line, you must check passports and work visas for discrepancies. What starts as simple data checks quickly becomes more intriguing and  difficult.

Each day, you must use your hard earned money (typically only earned by allowing people through the checkpoint) on food, heat, medicine, and upgrades for your booth. It was only day 2 when I had to decide between heat OR food… and day 4 when I had to decide which of my family members would get medicine.

Into this come the real-world dangers of underpaid workers who are easily swayed by monetary gain through illicit means. You are asked to stretch the rules, even break them, to help others or earn money.

After my first hour, I received ending #3- I was arrested. I won’t spoil your play by telling you how I got that ending, but knowing there are several endings (20?) certainly increases the replayability.

The game is typically $10 on Steam, but today it is on sale for $6.

-Fun: Not in a classical sense, but it is a puzzle and you can get drawn into it more as you learn more of the political intrigue.

-Replayability: Different endings allow multiple playthroughs.

-Originality: Can’t say I’ve ever played a game as an immigration officer!

-Art style: The graphics and sound are very retro- almost Midi-like music with a heavy hand. It adds to the environment and the stereotypical communist country.

-Environment: I can’t say for sure that you ever come out of your booth, but the sparse booth and the grey upper section that shows the events outside both add to the oppressive feeling.

-Plot: I didn’t see much of it, since I made an inadvisable decision early on. I think I was arrested around day 6 or 7. The hints of plot were interesting, though. I certainly hope they follow through.

-Graphics: They are old-fashioned, but fit with the art style decision.

-Animations: Nothing that pulls you out of the story. Even just the simple silhouettes along the top walking back and forth can help convey context.

-Controls: I had to switch to full screen because the stamp button was so close to the edge, I kept sending it to the background. This is alleviated eventually by a ‘tab’ upgrade, but the small buttons could be bigger.

-UI: The rule book is a bit annoying, since every time you want to show discrepancy, you have to flip to the right page to click on the errors. If there could at least be a shortcut to each section, that would be helpful. Perhaps this is part of the design, though- you are an overworked, underpaid civil servant, after all. There was an interesting choice to allow UI upgrades through character purchase. I was only able to purchase the first two- Space bar to open the Inspect panel and Tab to pull out the stamps.

-Settings: You can choose between windowed and full screen, and there is an “easy mode.” When using the full body scanner to determine gender, contraband, and hidden weapons, you can also elect to turn nudity off (it is on by default). There is no ‘subtitle’ setting, but there are no spoken words, either. It is all typed, and if you miss a conversation, you can pull it up on your desk as a transcript.



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