Greetings, my wizarding fellows, and welcome to the third entry of Ranzacking Reviews! Written with his own fingers and imagination, it is ranzacado once again. I appreciate the feedback on the last article, and I’m kinda flattered some people thought it was plagiarised (IT WAS NOT), I hope everyone enjoyed it as much as I did writing it! I’ll try to be a bit more concise from now on with this introductions, as I’ve used them as a space for my opinion. But you don’t want that, you want the games! And that’s exactly what you’ll get!
For this edition, I bring forth to you a gem (as usual): “Papers, Please”. This one is a pretty unique title, in many ways. If you’ve played it, you know what I mean. If you don’t, let me show you some details:
- Brief synopsis: Your name was pulled on the October Labor Lottery and you now serve as the border crossing immigration officer for the country of Arstotzka. Your duty is to process and examine every immigrant that comes into the border, and accept or deny their request to entry according to the rules. You’ll be tested in many ways and not in a light way. Your work time has begun. Glory to Arstotzka. (Simply put, it’s a simulator).
- Available platforms: PC [Windows, Mac, Linux] - iOS - Playstation Vita
- Price: $9.99 [Usual price] - $4.99 [GOG]
As per usual, the article’s gonna be divided into Gameplay, Controls, Graphics & Music and My Personal Thoughts; feel free to examine the article or just take a glance. So, without further ado, let’s get into it!
[DISCLAIMER: the pictures used in this article are not owned nor created by me. Rights go to their respective authors.]
[ranzacado says: I’m starting to feel like I write this articles as a script for a video… weird… Maybe one day? We’ll see.]
Developed by a single man: Lucas Pope (maybe you recognize the name, as it’s the developer of the 2018 award winning title Return of the Obra Dinn) and published by his pseudonym 3909, “Papers, Please” was released on Steam on August 8th, 2013. It’s one, if not the most unique and engaging game I’ve ever played until this date (maybe that’s prone to change, I don’t know), and I don’t say that lightly: this game counts with more than 20 Awards and nominations, including BAFTA, Forbes (Indie Game 2013), Destructoid and more!
As with his other titles, the game has innovative mechanics and a charming visual style (although not suitable for everyone, but I adore it). For a game with 5 years it looks older than that, but that doesn’t mean that a few years haven’t treated it well, quite the contrary. But let’s get into more detail and see if the game is of your taste.
So, as I said earlier, you’re an immigration officer. What’s the coolness in that? Well, it’s a simulator. It’s supposed to feel like the real deal. You’ll even have to pay the bills, food and medicine (when required), but that’s aside. The main thing is your workstation. The screen divides itself on 3 segments: the border view, the booth and your desk. You call an entrant, you get their papers and drag them onto your desk. You’ll see passports. TONS of them, everyday. That is, well, if they have it in them.
YES, I’m serious. You’ll have a line waiting outside your workstation. You call them one by one and they enter. They give you their papers: passports, tickets, permits, etc. They may be expired, forged, “stolen”, missing or even outright made-up. And you find these flaws with your Discrepancy Highlighter, the red bar on the lower right corner. You select two bits of info and, if they’re related, it’ll appear on the screen if there’s a discrepancy or not. After that, you have to drop the seal: kick ‘em out or let ‘em in.
At the start you’ll begin with only the passports and ID cards. As you progress you’ll have to check more and more papers. You’ll even have to check if they’re on today’s Wanted Criminals (yes, you can detain people), their height, their weight (they may be carrying contraband stuff, watch out) and even the smallest of details hidden within what you see on the screen. You ought to have a keen eye if you want your family to live a decent life!
On the other hand, not everyone’s as evil as I made them sound. Sometimes, if you let the correct people pass even though their documents are flawed, they’ll grant you a special collectible coin! Sometimes it’s a matter of empathy if you let someone pass through. You have two warnings before you start to pay the penalties: use them well or don’t use them at all, it’s your choice!
There are also over 20 different endings on this game. Not gonna spoil anything to you, don’t worry. And hey, you can add stuff to decorate your booth’s wall, like a family picture or your son’s sports team banner. Cute!
After you end your workday, you’ll get back home. You get paid and you get to to spend your money on your family. Rent’s obligatory, but food and heat are optional, so you can check them out if you wanna save up some money. Just try to not let your family die in the process.
And as you saw on the first picture, you can play on Story Mode or Endless Mode, which will unlock after you get a certain ending. You can select between 3 types of runs:
- Timed: Process as many entrants as possible within 10 minutes. Detaining people will add 5 seconds to the clock, while penalties will get you 30 seconds closer to the end.
- Perfection: The run ends on the first incorrectly processed entrant.
- Endurance: You earn points for every entrant processed/detained, but lose them when you get penalties, multiplicatively (each penalty subtracts more). Reaching 0 points ends the run.
Each mode has 4 difficulty levels: each difficulty adds more papers to the entrants. Who thought smashing a red seal after ten minutes of scrutiny could be so much fun?
[ranzacado says: My favorite’s Endurance, as it’s truly endless if you have a good eye. I believe I reached 120 points once.. more or less, I don’t remember.]
As I mentioned earlier, you drag the papers onto your desk, you click some buttons and... that’s about it for controls. It’s pretty simple. You can arrange the documents around your work desk pretty easily. If something is in the way, you can always set it aside on the counter. And then throw their red-marked-passports onto their faces.
Throughout the game, you’ll gain access to some booth upgrades (which you can see on the right hand at the end of each day, as you can see on the last screenshot), like the Visa Seal opening with tab or pressing space/double clicking activates the Discrepancy Highlighter. You have your rulebook too, which has all the necessary information about each countries details, Arstotzkan document seals, general rules and so on and so forth. You can upgrade it to have shortcuts, which prove to be really helpful so try to get it fast.
But yeah, the whole game can be played with only a mouse. Or even a touchscreen (remember, it’s on iOS too!). I myself have played it on my computer touchscreen too, it’s a fresh and interesting challenge.
Graphics & “Music”:
Let’s start with the music. Why did I wrote “music”, you may be asking to yourself? Well, there’s no music apart from the Arstotzkan anthem on the main menu. As for sound effects, you can hear a noise when people speak, the horn when your turn ends, and various paper-moving sounds throughout the game. So.. basically like real life, right?
Luckily on this day and age, retro graphics are pretty popular (I love pixel art), and this game is no exception. The game takes this kind of ‘GameBoy Color’-esque aesthetic mixed with a bit of realism and it just blends in really well with the narrative, washed-out colors and all. Each important object is represented with a popping color, so they can be pretty differentiable with enough practice.
Although cutscenes are pretty much lackluster, as they’re just a sequence of images with bottom text, they pretty much convey the necessary information to carry on with the game. It’s not a heavy narrative-influenced game, after all.
Well, I’m just gonna be honest: the game deserves all its awards. It may not be a game for everyone, but it just made me experience a lot of different feelings throughout the story. And the endless mode is pretty enjoyable as a time killer, quick and easy to pick up as long as you remember how it all works. Lucas Pope is an indie dev Legend, with such innovative ideas that are not only outside the box.. they are out of this world.
With nothing more to say, I’m getting anxious to put some seals on some passports (..on the game) so I’m gonna wrap it up now.
Here’s the Steam page of the game for you to check it out: https://store.steampowered.com/app/239030/Papers_Please/
And check out http://dukope.com/ for a list of all the games Lucas Pope has published! I haven’t played any other game but I bet they’re as unique as this one. Additionally, somebody did a cinematic short about the game that pretty much sums it up, so you can look that one up too.
Once again, this has been ranzacado. Thank you for joining me and I hope you liked my review on this masterpiece (it’s becoming a trend of mine calling everything that, isn’t it?)! Please, tell me your thoughts on this game whether you like it or not. See you on the next article!
Check out my other reviews:
- Bastion ~ https://gamehag.com/news/bastion---ranzacking-review2
- Cook, Serve, Delicious! ~ https://gamehag.com/news/cook-serve-delicious---pranzacking-review