Be sure to vote for this game on Steam Greenlight!
Luis sent me this game the other day and the first thing I did was watch a video review, and then last night I figured I had to try it out for myself. Papers, Please is a “dystopian document thriller,” involving careful scrutiny of passports, border control documents, and immigration paperwork. It is one of the most satisfying and fun games I’ve played in awhile. Despite sounding like it’d be dull, what with checking over paperwork and matching up inconsistencies, it’s actually surprisingly compelling and challenging. AND you can download the latest build for free!
I’ve also played Lucas Pope’s other game, Republia Times (which you can also play for free here). My favorite thing about his games is how he presents social commentary in a way that isn’t judgmental or leading, but instead he simply lays it all out and allows you to come up with your own conclusions yourself. Pope has indicated that the idea for the game came from his own travels and experiences with border control, and how it might feel from the other side. In terms of moral choices, you have the power to let people in who don’t have the proper paperwork, or the power to not let in people who do have the proper paperwork. As the creator stated, “One of my motivations for making this game is to exploit the player’s morals and give them tough choices.”
During my playthrough, I encountered a man with all his paperwork in order. He informed me his wife would be coming after him, and asked me to be kind to her. After he left, his wife entered the booth. Unfortunately, while she had a valid passport, she did not have a valid entry permit. I asked her about this, and she pleaded for me to let her in anyway. The choice presented was really tough, and far more emotional than the usual “good vs. evil” choice presented in most games. Here, neither choice was really correct, I just had to do what I felt was best, and I chose to let her in and take the reprimand.
The game mechanics are extremely satisfying. Clicking the stamp to approve or deny someone, moving documents from the desk to your work area, and noting discrepencies are all smooth, fluid, and easy. The graphics remind me of old-school pixel art, but without the limited palette (though within each sprite, the palette is limited, just not within the entire game). The simplicity of the graphics combined with the muted colors really remind me of old Soviet propaganda posters, which are some of my favorite designs throughout history. The game feels stark and very cold, and the atmosphere makes the moral choices somehow feel even more compelling.
To be perfectly and sadly honest, I didn’t think this game was going to be worth buying when it comes out for real. I figured the novelty wouldn’t outlast a few hours. But today I’m already itching to play it again. I was actually really surprised at how interesting it is. I definitely think Lucas Pope is a fantastic game designer with a great attitude, and I definitely voted for it on Steam Greenlight (and you should too!).
(as an aside, if you are at all interested in the development or process of games, his dev log is quite interesting!)