Oct 20, 2016
Papers, Please, a cold war political thriller from American designer Lucas Pope, is an onerous wonder. Unlike most simulations, you are not a rich hot-shot, rather you are a modest, filthy pinion in an endless totalitarian machine, prepared to squash the expectations of evacuees. In exchange, you’ll receive a tiny salary that just might be enough to keep your family alive. As a border clerk for the nation of Arstotzka, it’ll be your job to observe the rules of the totalitarian regime while deciding whether to deny or allow passage through your gate.
Congratulations — You’ve Been Selected
You are a inhabitant of Arstotzka, a comrade express that has quite recently finished a six-year war with the neighboring Kolechia. At the beginning of the game, you learned that Arstotzka has selected you from a pool of hopeful workers to become a clerk at the immigration checkpoint between Arstotzka and the neighboring nation of Grestin. It’ll be your job to sit in a stall all day, check papers and decide whether people have the proper qualifications to enter the country. To succeed, you’ll need to master a set of rules that becomes a bit more complicated every day. You’ll receive a pittance each time you admit or deny someone correctly. Make mistakes, though, and fines will quickly begin piling up.
Only the Surface
As an immigration officer, you’ll face a number of difficult decisions throughout Papers, Please. Will you simply do your job to the best of your ability, or will you take advantage of potential opportunities to change the fate of your nation? Do you admit someone who doesn’t have the proper papers because he tosses a bribe your way or do you deny him, knowing that he could commit a devastating terrorist attack within Arstotzka’s borders? The moral decisions that you’ll make will often influence the outcome of Papers, Please in unexpected ways.
Papers, Please has 17 endings in all. It’ll be difficult to unlock all of them without a walkthrough — especially since the game becomes so difficult after you’ve completed several days of work. You’ll need to check for forged passports, remain on the lookout for wanted criminals, conduct body scans to catch smugglers, catch discrepancies in entrance permits and more. You’ll also need to work quickly, since the payment you receive is never quite enough.
Luckily, Papers, Please has a timeline that populates itself automatically while you play. When you make a decision at a crucial juncture, you create an alternate timeline leading to a specific ending — so you can always back up and see what would have changed if you’d done things differently.
Papers, Please began life as a PC game, but it really shines on the iOS platform. The game takes place from a first-person view, so your desk consumes the majority of the game’s interface. With all of the rules that you’ll need to follow to be successful, you’ll need to reference various manuals and newsletters constantly. To add to the challenge, there isn’t enough room on your desk to hold all of your paperwork in plain view — so you’ll need to shuffle things around. Moving paperwork by touching it adds greatly to the tactile sensation of playing Papers, Please. We find the game much more playable on iOS than on the PC.
Papers, Please: Conclusion
The plot of Papers, Please doesn’t exactly compete with a Tom Clancy novel. That being said, the story will hook you quickly if you enjoy the basic mechanic of examining papers and stamping approval or denial. Papers, Please presents you with a number of interesting moral dilemmas as you play, though, and you’ll probably want to replay at least a few scenes to find out how the story would have changed.
Although the basic game mechanic of examining papers and stamping passports may not sound particularly exciting on the surface, it’s executed so perfectly on touch screens that Papers, Please is really an essential game for iOS device owners. The game mechanic is surprisingly engaging, and the story is interesting enough that you’ll want to stick around long enough to see at least a few endings.