Papers Please is an 8-Bit pixel-art style adventure taking place in the fictive communistic state Artrozka. You are playing in the role of a boarder official verifying the documents of people who want to enter Artrozka. The game starts easy with simply checking for validity and authenticity of passports of immigrants and Artrozka citizens. However, throughout the game on each working day you receive new instructions and rules that have been added, removed, or altered. For example, foreign immigrants must have valid work permit, health certificate or are not allowed to enter the country at all if they are from a certain other country. Thus, figuring out if someone is allowed to enter or not becomes increasingly difficult. Making a wrong decision to let somebody enter Artrozka will cause deductions on your salary sheet at the end of each working day. Since each working day is limited in time you must verify quickly enough to earn enough money for paying your rent and your family’s expenses.
Most of the passengers you verify are generated randomly, but dedicated encounters throughout the 30-day-length story are added driving the story and special events. A mysterious organization wants you to let their members to enter the country to liberate it, people offer you extra money for let workers in or even your supervisor advises you to let a certain diplomat pass. These special encounters add most of the atmosphere to the game as in the moment of making a decision you will not know its consequences which often just kick in days later.
Based on your performance how many people you can check properly and your decisions in those story-encounters the game has various endings. However not a full playthrough is needed to verify alternative decisions as you can start at any previous day you already completed. The game will create a tree-like structure for your save-games. Once you replay a day with different decisions a new branch in the save-game tree is created allowing to follow the new story alternative without losing the old ones.
The communist style minimalistic music, design of emblems and fictive names of countries and cities add to the minimalistic 8-Bit design. For a mobile game it creates a quite strong immersion effect as even so the references to real former communist countries are intentionally exaggerated the world feels authentic. This is even more a strength as you mainly get to know more background information from simple maps and information in your boarder control handbook and from small conversations with the immigrants only.
Around ten years after its original release Papers Please is still an innovative and motivating puzzle adventure. It touches current political controverses and enforces you to make decisions with unforeseen consequences that you will remember.
- innovative idea and gameplay
- immersive world from minimalistic graphics
- soundtrack minimalistic as well, but matching the world design
- decisions with strong consequences
- lot of alternative endings, tree-like save-game-structure
- some controls not immediately intuitive
“In 2023 Papers Please is as innovative as it was back for its original release 2013. A milestone in puzzle adventure games and with its political references not only relevant today but likely timeless”
Sources: Screenshots: own screen captures