Papers, Please – A Video Game Review


The game’s main menu

I love puzzle video games, and I love dystopian-themed video games. But, I never thought of a single game that combines the two genres. That is, until a friend of mine introduced me to this dystopian puzzle, Papers, Please.

In a nutshell, this game is all about immigration. You are an immigration officer serving for the fictional communist country of Arstotzka, and you’ll do everything that an immigration officer would do, from stamping passports to conducting full-body searches.  

The inspection process in the border checkpoint.

While it might sound boring, this game is actually pretty challenging, because if you screw up, like letting in people without required documents, you will get a citation from your supervisor. If you screw up too many times, you’ll be fined. And, If you’re fined too many times, you’ll find yourself in debt, and then it’s game over. But, debt is not only the only cause that will end your game. There are lots of things that will affect your fate as an immigration officer, like not being able to take care of your family.

Yes, you have a family to take care of in this game. Every time you finish your shift, you will go home with money, and you have to manage your expenses for food, heat and medicine. If you can’t manage your expenses, don’t expect to be able to continue the game much further.

Managing your expenses is one of the most crucial part in the game.

Every once in a while, you’ll face immigration emergencies, like terrorist attacks that you have to prevent.

A terrorist attack occurred in Grestin border, the main setting of Papers, Please.

Sometimes, you’ll face dilemmas like whether or not you should let someone in who present incomplete documents but plea for political asylum, otherwise they’ll get killed in their homeland. Finally, there is one point in the game where you have to decide whether you want to stay loyal with Arstotzka’s tyrannical government, join the Arstotzkan rebellion, or escape from Arstotzka altogether. All those things that I’ve mentioned make this game more exciting than you might think

The more you play this game, the more the game will try to push you away. During the course of the story, the game gets harder and harder, because the entry requirement gets stricter over time, which means you’ll do more inspecting than when you first started. For some, it might be so overwhelming to the point one will stop playing. While others will enjoy the escalating challenges, which means more fun.

Unfortunately, the replay value of Papers, Please is fairly low. When you finish story mode, there’s no point to go back and replay… UNLESS you’re curious about the 20 other endings the game offers, which I won’t spoil. Sure, there is the endless mode that you can unlock once you complete story mode, but you’ll probably never play it. Why? Because you’ll already know what’s going to occur during gameplay. And, that’s why this game has such low replay value.

Overall, Papers, Please is such an interesting game. It successfully transforms a concept that sounds boring, into an interesting one. It is challenging, especially for puzzle enthusiasts like me who want to get their hands on something new. Nonetheless, beware of the low replay value.