Today I Played: Papers, Please

title screenThis is a game I’ve been looking forward to. To set the scene, you play the role of an immigration officer whose duty is to scrutinise the legitimacy of travellers’ documents as they pass through your checkpoint in faux Eastern Europe. While this may not sound immediately interesting, there are a lot of intricacies to the game that make it easy to get completely absorbed.

gameplay deskThis is your desk, where you’ll spend most of your time in the game. On top is an overhead view of your station, bottom left is where you’ll find the hopeful traveller and your shelf, and to the right is your desk. You’ll need to juggle the documents handed to you with your regulations and scour all the little details and rules so that you can stamp their passport APPROVED or DENIED.  As the game progresses day after day, caveats, rules and interaction mechanics get added. For example, later in the game you have to point out the reason for denial and apply an extra stamp (side note: this may or may not be introduced depending on how you respond to one of the applicants, although I’ll need another playthrough to be sure myself).

The pressure really starts to build as more complex mechanics are introduced. The days are timed and you are penalised for making too many mistakes. There are  unique interactions that can give you bonus money, but you can also have your day cut short if you let the wrong person through, giving you less time to earn cash. The motivation to do well?

bleak stats money

You have a cold, hungry family to support. You won’t have enough money to pay for everything all of the time. It’s a difficult balancing act, but it’s been forgivable so far, and as with the immigrants, there are some unique opportunities to explore that will make me play this game again and again.

The ‘story’ comes through in two ways. You’ll have some suspicious people coming to your booth with cryptic clues and small puzzles that you’ll have to think through in the back of your mind while you stamp work visas and check that women haven’t gained 6kg because they’re smugglers or terrorists. In addition, the days start with a newspaper clipping giving broad info about performance, spy activity and more that could impact upon your shift. If you let a bomber through the day before, that’ll often be highlighted too, which actually made me hunker down and try and get a perfect day to make up for my mistakes.

newspaper story

I’m a few hours into the game and find myself really engrossed in the vague storylines and mysteries peppering the shifts. I’ve taken to jotting down names and symbols in a notebook to help remember little details that might come in useful later. I’m not sure how much longer I’ve got to go, but I’m already planning out the next playthrough to try and tease a little more detail out.

If this sounds at all interesting, there’s a demo/beta to try at http://dukope.com/, and the full game is available through http://papersplea.se/ for about £7/$10 on Steam or GOG. I hadn’t heard of the developer Lucas Pope before, but I’m going to look through his previous work when I’m done here.

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