Papers Please

Papers Please screenshot

First Impressions: In this game you are a laborer working at a check point trying to maintain a harsh living! When I first played this game, I wasn’t impressed with the art work. However, the background and the whole environment was a setting which I did not find in most games. The game starts by explaining the character’s situation. The main character works at a check point in a country called Arstotzka. The main character wins what is called a labor lottery ticket. I believe in countries like North Korea or the former Soviet Union wasn’t able to provide every citizen with a job. Winning a labor lottery ticket made me realize that Arstotzka is probably a communist country which the citizens get designated with an occupation rather than earning it through education. The whole game is portrayed in one screen where the gamer approves entry of the people who are trying enter the Arstotzka. The game mechanic is simple but one must read the manuals and instruction to better understand the rules. I for one relate to the theme of this game because I’m an international student. People who have experience going through check points in other countries may enjoy this game. I felt a sense of control when I was stamping approvals for entry. The game is surprisingly challenging but I think gamers would like to try this unique experience. 


Going Further: I was wrong when I thought that comparing the documents was the only thing I was going to do in this game. As each day passed the game introduced me to new tools and additional rules to check the people who are trying to enter Arstotzka. Each time I made a mistake the game gave me a warning right after I let that person through the gate. I was surprised how detail the game was when I wasn’t able to tell the difference between the person at the window and the photo on the passport. I liked the dynamic characters who were trying to pass the border. Some of them were realistic when they were begging to enter. The dialogue would often bring up sensitive subjects such as a child waiting at the other side of the gate. The life at the Grestin Border was rough. Everyone was trying to find a place to live or work. There were terrorist attacks near the border which stopped me from working. Each day additional requirement for documents will be listed and most of them are related to the events happening in the game. The timer also runs like you are going through a real day. One time I thought there was a bug because I was working overtime. It turned out to be an animated part of the game where there was a terrorist attack and I wasn’t paid for that overtime. This was a border patrol game but also with survival features because I was compensated for each day’s work and had to use that money to maintain a family. I only got 10 dollars for each successful entry and it was barely enough to keep the whole family going. The game provides these situations and reminded me that life can be tough. 

The game evolves in two different categories. The first category is the story. The story takes over a significant portion when playing this game. Sometimes a visitor would give unrelated flyers or notes which seemed to me like a hint on what is going on with Arstotzka government. Those hints can be also found in the daily newspaper which is displayed each morning right before going to the checkpoint. I haven’t gone deeper into the game but I expect that different scenarios will occur depending on which people I let through the gate. The second category is the mechanics of the game. In the beginning stages the player are only given a few tools such as the basic rule book. The mission is also very simple but it becomes more complex at later stages. I thought the inspector tool was useful during the game but also triggers people to click it just to make sure all the documents are valid. The inspector tool eventually becomes the main controller for the game because it also triggers events such as detaining a person or scanning their body with X-ray vision. When I made a mistake by not checking the sex of a visitor, I thought it was a bad design because determining if a person is a male or a female through a 2D image wasn’t easy. I realized that scanning a person’s body was a way to check his or her sex and it was the game designers' purpose to make sure the players check every single detail of each visitors. I think this is a great game design because the game mechanics are challenging enough and at the same time people receive a sense of purpose by understanding the background story. 

Reviewed by
Won Young Son