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Review: 'Papers, Please' is more than just checking passports

Papers, Please


You have been assigned by the government to be an inspector at a border checkpoint. Disadvantages included with the job include would-be terrorists, anti-government sects, drug and weapons trafficking, and very low pay. Unfortunately, you have to provide for your family, and there's always that pesky government threatening you with detainment if you don't cooperate. Glory to Arstotzka!

Logo for 'Papers, Please'

In 'Papers, Please', you may at first feel that there can't be more to it than just approving or denying passports. People who, for some reason, want to come into the communist country of Arstotzka must provide proper identification. They have it? You let them through. If they don't, they're turned away. Simple, right? Unfortunately, you have totally underestimated this game. As simple as the concept is, there is a subcontext that goes way beyond just the legality of getting into a country.

Very quickly you are faced with terrorist threats. Security at the border will be tightened, and more documents have to be shown to you. All numbers and names have to correlate with one another. All details must be perfect, or you will be penalized (your pay docked). You literally cannot afford to screw up, because you have to make sure your wife, son, uncle, and mother-in-law are all good to go at home. God forbid they go get a job and help out, but that's the way it is.

Among the normal threat of liars who want to come into Arstotzka, there's also a small group that wants to "save" it from the corruption which has left it in this deplorable state. Whether or not you decide to help this group is up to you.

The fact that such a informationally detailed game was created by one guy is amazing. There's so much detail that goes into passport information, work visas, and storylines. Your main task in this game is to try and remember as much as you can without having to delve into the rule book, because you're on a timer, and unfortunately for you, you're paid by how many people you process.

Graphically, this game is just alright. Generally throwback "8-bit" games aren't graphically great, but 'Papers, Please' comes off a bit muddled in some instances. It's very gray and mundane, which most likely is part of the ambiance of a dystopian, communist country. However, sometimes it leads one to challenge if portraits match. This can be easily checked with the interrogation feature, but it does take some time away that you could have been doing something else. Also, the clock and scale are sometimes hard to read, and at first may not even be noticed by the player.

The sound is decent as well. The music fits perfectly (the Title Screen even moves along with it). Sound effects come in the form of different grunts instead of actual words, which is good in the effect that it leads you to believe this is another language you don't understand, and the same audio files can work in any language.

Overall, if you enjoy simulations and embedded storylines, you definitely want to check out this game. It's much more difficult than it first appears, so plan on that as you head into playing the game. The graphics, even with "8-bit", could have been given much more appeal, and the music does drone on as you play for longer periods. You could always turn down the music, but that takes away from the overall appeal of the game. Considering those are really the only flaws, consider buying this game on Steam (or directly) and playing it a lot.

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