Papers, Please: A Dystopian Document Thriller is a puzzle game, available on PC and iPad, that allows you to take the role of a immigration inspector, who checks documentation of new arrivals for inconsistencies.
You start as a citizen of a fictional communist country called Arstotzka in the year 1982. Following the “October Labour Lottery”, you are sent to work at the Grestin Border Checkpoint. Grestin has been liberated after six years of war between Arstotzka and the neighbouring country, so you should expect turbulent working conditions.
There are a lot of people who want to visit Arstotzka. Some are just immigrants looking for work or visiting relatives. Others are spies, terrorists, and smugglers. Based on the directions given to you, you look through documentation of randomized characters and try to weed out the enemies of the state.
Eventually, bad things start happening and border regulations start getting tighter and tighter. Some visitors try to bribe you, others offer moral dilemmas. After finishing your shift at the chekpoint, you go back to your family with a salary based on the number of entries. Your salary, in turn, is used to keep your family members fed, warm, and happy. If you accept too much illegal money, you may face the harsh repercussions from your motherland.
At the end of the day, the game forces you to choose between the stability of your life and your state. While your position as the immigration officer seems insignificant at first, later you will start to realize the true magnitudes of your decisions. Entries coming through Grestin Checkpoint may truly change the fate of Arstotzka, for better, or for worse.
This communist bureaucracy of the game creates an Orwellian feeling, and the colours used for the interface let you immerse yourself into the atmosphere of cold, harsh second-world-country life. The game is not graphically advanced, yet the pixelated graphics are just enough for you to cross-list the visitor’s face with their passport photo.
Enabling a great replayability value, the game features 20 endings, and allows you to experience personal highlights, if you invest in the game personally. However, one of the major downsides is that game gives you a time limit for stamping the passports, the storyline is a bit too subtle and at it’s core, the game is a glorified point and click drama. Currently listed on Steam for $10.99, but I recommend waiting for sale.
In the end, if you are keen to experience social commentary, passable Atari graphics, and stamping passports – this is a game for you. As a simulation of a tedious and monotonous job, it somehow manages to put life of a bureaucrat into perspective and be fun at the same time. Glory to Arstotzka!
Featured image courtesy 3909.