It’s been a while since I posted a video game review, and I’ve been sitting on this one a while. If you haven’t heard of it yet, well… you’ve missed something really special.
It’s 1982. You are a lowly peon in an Eastern European country (definitely not the Soviet Union. Definitely not). And you’ve been selected to man a booth on your homeland’s border. It is your job to inspect the documents of those who wish to enter the glorious country of Arstotzka.
And that’s it. That’s the whole premise of Papers, Please. Your job is to inspect passports, work permits, entry permits, and the like. It’s your job to spot inconsistencies, forgeries, and smugglers. You don’t fire any guns. You don’t blow anything up.
Okay, so it sounds silly, doesn’t it? How could this game possibly be fun? Well, it really is. The game ramps up its difficulty in an organic, natural way. At first, all you have to do is deny entry to anyone who isn’t from Arstotzka. By the end of the game, you have to inspect multiple documents, making sure that ID numbers match, that all the seals are correct, and that their document information is correct.
Why would you have to do that? Because you have a family to take care of, and if you let too many mistakes slip past your checkpoint, the ministry will start docking your pay.
Not only that, but there are numerous plots swirling around your tiny little checkpoint. There’s the mysterious EZIC who wishes to foment violence in the motherland. There are criminals trying to flee through your country. And you are the one who can help or hinder them all.
Part of what makes this game so interesting is the fact that it is so timely. The game was released right around the time that the full-body scanners were in use by the TSA. Being on the other side of the scanner was an interesting experience.
What’s really cool is that there are approximately 20 different endings for the game. I just stumbled off one that teaches the lesson that you really shouldn’t cooperate with investigators who represent a repressive totalitarian regime. Who knew?
So if you’re looking for a quirky little game that will challenge your powers of observation, you can’t go wrong with Papers, Please.