Video Game Review: Papers, Please

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With everyone fawning over the latest entry in the mediocre, painfully overrated and frankly boring as Twilight series known as GTA, I thought it would be the perfect time to review an indie game made by a single man called Papers, Please, a game in which you play as a man working in the border control of the fictional Eastern Bloc country of Arstotzka.

Papers, Please received quite a lot of attention when it came out nearly 2 months ago but since I was too busy doing what ever the hell I was doing in early August it completely went over my head, but thanks to a combination of everyone sucking the balls of GTA 5, me not caring about that particular series, my own boredom and me just going randomly through the Internet I discovered this game a few days ago and I haven’t been able to put it down.

As I said the core game revolves around you, an average guy who gets forced into working on the border of the fictional country of Arstotzka, its your job to examine the paper work of the people seeking to gain entry into the country, decide weather or not to let a certain person through based on the correctness of his or her paper work or their reasons for going in while at the same time doing your job well enough to keep your family alive in this piss hole of a country.

The way the game is structured is different than anything I’ve played thus far and it’s quite refreshing to be perfectly honest. You would think that a game based around examining paper work and deciding to let people through would be boring but the game finds several different ways to make you invested in what’s going on and it becomes quite addictive the more you play it.

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At first the documentation you get is fairly simple, you get a passport with a persons name, picture, gender, date of birth and you need to make sure everything checks out to the smallest detail, if a persons documentation checks out you let them through and if you find anything suspicious you can interrogate them to find out the reason for this error.

However letting people through soon becomes more than just checking weather or not you should let them through. Some of the people that want to get in have their own personal reasons for going there and some of the stories introduced really make you think about what you should do. Do you let a young girl who’s seeking a better life inside if her papers are bad and you risk the life of your own family? How do you know that this person you’re letting through isn’t some terrorist, who’s going to blow the shit out of the place and cost you money, and yes terrorist attacks do happen and they can mess you up quite easily.

The way the game makes you sympathetic towards these people you’ll likely never see again is quite effective and you constantly need to balance out between doing the right thing and doing what ever it takes to save your family. News papers appear at the start of each new day and they show you how your choice of who to let in or out affected things, it really makes you question weather your choice was right or wrong and for a game about border control to be able to achieve this is quite an accomplishment.

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As the game progresses and the Arstotzka government introduces new regulations and gives you new tools at your disposal to play with, pretty soon you need to juggle between checking 3 or 4 documentations and making sure they all check out between themselves and with the constantly adding up rules and regulations, you need to scan people for weaponry to make sure they aren’t another crazy Kamikaze mother fucker out to ruin your livelihood and deal with the reasons for why these people are even there and how you should deal with it.

The game perfectly shows you just how piss poor life in a country like Arstotzka was, at the start of the game you apparently win some lottery where you get this fancy new job, a great new apartment and everything sounds great! Until you find out you barely make over 20 bucks a day (and that’s if nothing bad happens) and you just barely have enough money to go between food, heating and medicine to keep your 5 member family alive, and you’re living the good life, just imagine how the other poor bastards are living if this is the “good life”

Game play requires that you constantly check every single little detail because if you mess something up, even a tiny little detail like a persons name not being correct in 4 documents, then you get a warning and if you continue to mess up your pay starts to get cut and the lower your pay, the faster your family gets sent to an early grave.

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I haven’t been so enthralled in what’s going on in a game for quite a while like this, its a game where you absolutely need to take every single little detail into account because if you don’t your loved ones die and you lose. I constantly had to make sure I got everything right as fast as possible and every warning or penalty made my heart skip a beat, it is a game that requires thought and careful examination of the player and if your of those guys with the attention span of a rock then stick some with guns and explosions, you certainly have enough generic shooters to fill that bill.

Papers, Please easily could have been some pseudo-propaganda interactive bullshit piece telling us how border control or communism or terrorism is evil and such but the game tackles these issues very well because it doesn’t beat you over the head with it. You know just as much as any other poor bastard in an Eastern Bloc country would know which is to say not much since the government has complete media control and it works to immerse you in the game.

But for all the great things Papers, Please does, there is one pretty noticeable flaw with the game and some things I wish were expanded upon. The tutorial for lack of a better word is really piss poor, it doesn’t really explain to you how you use this new feature that’s been introduced and it largely relies on trial and error to figure out, usually this wouldn’t bother me much but a game that’s so much about precision and getting everything right by any means necessary you cant expect me to just do random shit until I figure out what does what!

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I wish you could actually see your family when you come home and interact with them, I know this game was developed by one guy in his spare time and the whole family dying because you suck at your job is good motivation enough, but I think it could have been even stronger if you got to know these people and really bond with them but sadly you never get to do this.

This also isn’t a game you should play for hours on end because it’ll get repetitive quite fast, the best way to play it is if you’re well rested, in the right mood and you need to burn an hour or two while waiting to go to school or something, its a game that should be played sparingly and you cant just play it whenever because then you wont be able to play it right.

Papers, Please was quite a pleasant surprise and I don’t regret dropping 10 bucks for it.  Its a very different game than anything currently out in the market and its one where the players skill, patience and speed go into account and it manages to make you genuinely care about what you’re doing, who you’re doing it for and the moral implications of it all.


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