Papers, Please Review

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What’s your definition of the word ‘entertaining’? It’s a bit of a subjective term, so maybe your definition differs slightly from mine. I would say that for me, ‘entertaining’ can mean a multitude of things. One thing it definitely means, however, is the ability to decide the fate of hundreds of people’s lives, especially if they’re in this game. Papers, Please is a game that lets you decide the fate of almost everyone you interact with and is really a true test of your moral compass. Are you going to report the woman who hasn’t seen her husband in weeks because one of her documents is out of date? Are you going to let through the man the newspapers named a menace to society? The choice is yours, and glory to Arstotzka.

To give you a little more context, Papers, Please is a puzzle game, in which you play an ordinary citizen who has been asked by the Ministry of Admission to become the new immigration officer between the borders of Kolechia and the mighty Arstotzka. The communist state of Arstotzka – where you live – has hundreds of people passing through each day, and it’s your job to decide who does and doesn’t make the cut. Various documents and other procedures can help you determine who should be allowed through and help you weed out the spies, terrorists and smugglers that threaten your glorious nation. The gameplay is simple; you read your diktat each morning, which lets you know of any new procedures or details, and then you open your booth up to the hoards of people queuing outside. At the beginning of the game, you only need to check people’s passports, however, as the game progresses, more and more checks start to pop up. From work visas to full-body scans, the game gets harder the longer you play, but still expects you not to make any mistakes. A few errors are okay, but make too many mistakes and the Ministry of Admissions will get angry and cut your pay, which is already very low. You will also encounter difficult decisions in the game, such as whether you want to help a group of protesters or allow a wife through after her husband, even though her documents are dated wrong. All of these ethical conundrums mean that Papers, Please has an impressive twenty endings in total, all of which I achieved after much heartbreak.

All of this variety means that I had an incredible time playing this game, and all the possible outcomes meant that I happily played it again and again. The game has a very unique style, which is to say that it’s quite bleak and dire, with awkward and 8-bit characters on a dreary colour palette and crackly audio that sometimes sounds like something’s echoing in a large room. It suits the game though, as the dark and depressing aesthetic lends itself to the overall sad and suspicious tone which settles heavier the more you turn people away and back onto the streets. The developer Lucas Pope did a wonderful job at balancing the very real and impactful portions of the game with the interactive elements and the ability to let the player choose their own path. The more you play, you somehow get both better and worse, as the anxiety that comes from more forms to check and more people to turn away can make you make silly mistakes, which result in consequences. The game is almost dehumanising, as depending on the way you choose to play, you can send good people away and save money to take care of your dying son and mother-in-law, or do the right thing and be punished by the Ministry of Admission in the forms of pay cuts and downgrading of your home.

This is where the subjective part of the word ‘entertaining’ comes in again. Although a strange experience, the tight gameplay and amazingly written story can be classed as nothing but entertaining, even if you might finish the game feeling a lot more sombre than when you started. It’s a fantastic idea and is brilliantly executed, and comes with the added bonus of being one of the most compelling games I’ve played in years. This won’t be a game for you if you don’t enjoy the occasional ethical and moral dilemma, however, if it is then Papers, Please will be a welcomed change from what’s usually available on the market. And remember, glory to Arstotzka.

REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to editor@bonusstage.co.uk.

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Papers, Please Review
  • Gameplay - 10/10
    10/10
  • Graphics - 9/10
    9/10
  • Sound - 9/10
    9/10
  • Replay Value - 9/10
    9/10
User Review
0 (0 votes)
Comments Rating 0 (0 reviews)
Overall
9/10

Summary

A compelling and unique game that gets my stamp of approval.

Pros

  • A compelling and interesting story.
  • Tight and easy to learn gameplay.
  • A genuinely unique concept that’s executed brilliantly.

Cons

  • The tone and style may not be for everyone.

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