Papers, Please is my new favorite game on Steam. Created by indie developer Lucas Pope, it’s a dystopian game about running a border control checkpoint in a fictional 1980’s country.
Each day the player examines the passports and paperwork of applicants trying to enter the country Arstotzka. Money is paid out for successful processing, and fines are levied for mistakes. Increasing imposed hassles slow applicant processing (and therefore moneymaking) down. The story is told through the people entering the checkpoint and a daily newspaper. Ultimately the player has to support themselves and their family on a dwindling budget.
The concept of Papers, Please is original and well executed. The pixel graphics, fonts, and simple animation mesh well with the in-game tasks and story. The game also has branching saves. It’s possible to go back to a different day, make new choices, and keep the original timeline from the first save.
The game’s UI is a little confusing. Interrogation mode gave me the most trouble: it wasn’t immediately clear how to successfully check all of the items I needed to. The game is also disturbing. I found myself trying to do a good job even with the consequences of complacency.
Overall, I’m glad I spent time on Papers, Please. I’m looking forward to playing more of Lucas Pope’s games in the future.