Not many games get through Steam’s Greenlight process, but “Papers, Please” did and rightly so. I mean, where else can you play a paper stamping simulator? Before you make that face, it’s important to stress that the game isn’t as boring as it sounds…quite the opposite, in fact. In this particular simulator, you take on the role of an immigration inspector that my accept or reject applicants attempting to cross over to the Arstotzkan side of Grestin from Kolechia. Yeah, try saying that ten times fast. Before we get started checking out the game in further detail, I’d like to thank Lucas Pope, the creator of the game, for providing me with a free review copy.
The main menu allows the player to start or continue the main story, test your skills in endless mode, and adjust game options. The options menu covers a fullscreen and nudity toggle, the ability to set “Easy Mode”, date format, and audio levels. Easy mode, for those of you curious, gives you an extra twenty credits a day. You’ll understand why credits are important in a moment. Endless mode requires a five digit code to access, which will be made available to you once you reach a certain ending within the story. Endless mode features three different ways to test your mettle, via timed, perfection, and endurance challenges. As for the story itself, it contains about twenty different endings and lasts about four hours, give or take depending on your choices.
The story mode is broken up into days, with the game lasting about thirty or so, depending on your choices. Each day, your basic goal of accepting and rejecting applicants never changes. However, the further into the story you get, the more complex the paperwork and the more tools you’ll have available to you. For example, the first day might task you with making sure that just the passport is in order, whereas you’ll have to perform body searches, compare dates, check work permits, inspect diplomatic paperwork, and more by day ten.
The difficulty ramps up quickly and I found myself overwhelmed my first time through. I felt defeated when I was only able to process three or four folks a day, as there was just so much to review before stamping them either way. Yet, as I kept playing, I found myself getting better at recognizing the discrepancies that may pop up. Some are obvious, like when they appear female but their passport says that they are male. However, it’s easy to miss that issuing city section of the passport, which requires you to look in your guide for the correct nation (nations are color-coded and have their own seal) and the issuing cities listed there. There’s a LOT to take in at first, so don’t be frustrated on your first time through. After a while, you’ll know what to look for and in what order to do them in.
You wouldn’t think that there’d be much of an actual story behind this game, but I came across some surprising events that tied two different days together. For example, I was introduced to some oddball who showed up at my window without a passport. After turning him away, he came back a few days later with documents that were no longer being used (like an entry ticket). He proceeded to show up every now and again, and though it was obvious I would probably never let the poor guy in, I felt like my previous days actually did matter. A husband and wife showed up at one point and I had to let the husband in but turn the wife away, adding to the humor of the situation. After a few playthrus though, I came to realize that some of these events were scripted…expecting them the second or third time around puts a damper on the replayability a bit.
So, what’s stopping you from just picking a stamp and having at it? First off, if you choose the wrong stamp, you’ll be penalized for it. On any given day, you’re allowed to mess up twice before they start fining you. This made me think twice before letting in an applicant without checking the issuing city, which is a pain in the rear might I add. At the end of the day, your salary and savings from the previous days are matched against that day’s rent, heat, food, and other expenses you might have to contend with. Booth upgrades can also be purchased from here, but are optional. They simply enable shortcut keys on the keyboard, which in theory should allow you to navigate the interface and paperwork faster. You can choose to uncheck an expense and leave it unpaid, but this usually has a negative impact on your family (as represented by status indicators at the “end of day” screen).
Overall, I was impressed with the way “Papers, Please” presented itself. Folks who have an affinity for attention to detail will excel at this game, as every little nuance will need to be considered each and every time before letting someone through. Organization skills will also be tested, as you’ll eventually have five or more different things to sort through and compare in order to make an accurate determination. There aren’t that many games like this out on the market, which is a real shame. This game proves what indie developers with aptitude are capable of and to that end, “Papers, Please” delivers in spades. For ten bucks, I think it’s worth a download, especially if you enjoy a challenge. Glory to Arstotzka!
Final Verdict: 8/10
You can learn more about and purchase “Papers, Please” by visiting the following websites:
Want to know the unlock code for Endless mode? Lucky for you, I’ve beaten the game…
***SPOILER! THE UNLOCK CODE IS: 62131*** <—- (hi-lite the text to reveal the code)
You can view video play sessions here: