During the Steam summer sale I remember coming across Papers Please and saying to myself “what the hell is this?”. What followed was me coming across a lot of people praising the game so of course I was left with a curiosity. Recently the game popped up on sale (on Steam) and finally decided to feed my curiosity and my god am I happy I did so.
First sight of the game you won’t think much of it, with a very old school presentation. The game trailers really do not help with getting a true sense of this game either. It is one of those games to understand it you have to play it.
You new to Arstotzka, yes?
In Papers Please you and your family (wife, son, mother-in-law and uncle) have just been granted citizenship in the fabulous Arstotzka (you won the labor lottery). Here you will work every day for the rest of your life at the border gates granting people entrance into Arstotzka or turning them away. As the story progresses you have to deal with always changing variables at the gates as the political landscape in the region fluctuates.
Some people will come to you at the gates with some questionable things. Which usually results in you having to sacrifice money for what could possibly be the right thing to do.
To simply put this game, it is Gestapo Oregon Trail. The main objective of this game is to make enough money each day ($5 per right allowance or denial of a person) to pay for your rent, food, heat and medicine if any of your family members fall ill. Each day what needs to be checked at the gate changes, making your job harder to do efficient and quickly within the time limit. Upgrades do become available as you progress to make your job easier by being able to pop in and out of screens quicker but these upgrades come at a cost (your savings).
One thing that is certain with this game is you will fail and often. Time is money and if you are moving to slow you will not make enough to keep your family alive or pay your rent. Both of which will end the game. A lot of memorization goes into this game with knowing if the passport you are viewing is from a legit issuing city. You could simply guess your way through letting people in at the gate but by your third wrong move you start getting pay deducted ($5).
Papers Please has that old school graphic appeal. It’s 1982 and the graphics make this game feel right at home, very fitting for the period it takes place in. Each person you meet trying to gain access to Arstotzka has a bit of charm in their appearance giving off that rugged “Russian” look.
I get that some people would not find graphics like this appealing but video games are an art form (yes I just went there) and when the graphics of the game meld beautifully with the tone and gameplay of that said game. Well then it’s just being done right.
Like the graphics the sound of Papers Please also has a charm to it. The theme music that plays during the opening sequence should remind any old chap of the long forgotten (but not missed) old country. Those long cold winter nights with nothing to eat but potatoes and bread. To be washed down with slightly chilled vodka and the tears of your children.
Any ways back on track. The various sound effects that fill this game help make the experience come alive. The muffled voice coming from the speaker on top of your booth, to the sounds of the camera taking pictures of suspicious people. Each sound works together as a whole to make for a enthralling experience.
There is a lot to be had in Papers Please. The game can take roughly about 5 hours to complete but for the real completionist who wants to experience every ending you can spend upwards of 10 to 14 hours on the game.
For the people who after finishing all that and still feel the need to continue on with the game there is an endless mode. Within endless mode you can play one of three game types: Timed, Perfection and Endurance. Each with different settings and scoring systems that will surly quench anyone’s lasting appetite to continue further with Papers Please.