In Arstotzka, the game plays you
Make the right judgment call or suffer the consequences. The republic won’t stand for excuses.
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Will you choose to play by the rules and avoid hurting your family? Or, will you follow your own ethical conscience? In Paper, Please, you can’t please them all.
The Ministry of Admission leaves border control in your capable hands. Or do they? With armed guards and extra security, plus punishments for getting things wrong, you may not be as trusted as you think.
You star as the immigration inspector in the fictional locale of Arstotzka in the year 1982. No leg warmers or big, poofy hair. Olivia Newton-John and Joan Jett do not play in the background. It’s been six long years of war with neighboring Kolechia. Arstotzkan has won, retaking Grestin, a border town. Arstotzka is under strict rule. Glory to Arstotzka!
The border is guarded with walls, guns, and barbed wire. Immigration access is restricted to those with the proper documents. Depending on the day, immigrant paperwork changes to reflect the current political climate with an unhealthy dose of suspicion. In Papers, Please, outsiders are always the enemy. But maybe not to you.
You have been chosen via national lottery to carry out the country’s immigration policy. This is not the career you held before. You and your family had to leave everything behind, and have been moved to class-8 housing. Does it get much lower than that? Each day, you will make decisions based on the morning's memo and the newspaper headlines. Follow the latest decree to the letter or you risk getting punished for your poor decision-making skills. At the end of the day, 6 PM Arstotzka time, your receipts are tallied and bills for food, rent, medicine, and heat are deducted. Do you have anything left? Your family is depending on you. Too bad the rent goes up, your son gets sick, and your mother-in-law is always hungry.
Welcome to Arstotzka: glory to Arstotzka
Papers, Please opens on November 23, 1982. At first, you must stamp the passport for residents of Arstotzka. All foreigners are denied entry. Easy. But, that doesn’t mean the people from surrounding countries aren’t going to try to sneak their way in. You have to ensure the Arstotzka passports are legit.
As the days continue, your orders change. Can you keep up? Process more people and receive more pay. Make one too many mistakes and your pay reduces to account for your terrible mismanagement. Terrorist attacks could close the checkpoint early so you won’t make as much money. Ignoring the rules, following your conscience, and allowing an unauthorized person through will get you in trouble. In an instant, you will receive a memo, with a stern warning. Make too many mistakes or let one too many immigrants through, and you will lose pay. Get in enough trouble and you will land in jail. Any applicants after 6 PM are unpaid so you better work fast.
Remember early 1980s favorites like Joust, Tron, Pac-Man? Yes, Paper, Please offers the same sort of graphics, game controls, and sound. The mood is set. It’s a fantastic throwback to an earlier focus on the game, not on the graphics, kind of time. Sure, the sound can be a bit grating over time, but it adds to the feel.
Is someone faking documents for nefarious purposes? That is for you to decide. Fingerprinting can help you figure out who is who and who is a potential traitor. Interrogate immigrants whose story doesn’t quite line up. Subject travelers to the scan and make sure they aren’t packing weapons. See something suspicious? Ask them about it. Do you believe them when they say, “It’s medicine?” Detain criminals or let them cross the border. It’s under your control. But, don’t forget the hungry and cold family members you have at home. It’s cold in Arstotzka, so cold, but maybe not as cold as your country’s border policies.
Open your doors, send the next person in. Entry tickets, passports, government ID, and entry visas flood your desk. Check the passport. Check the work permit. Does it make sense? Pour over the paperwork. Do the names match between documents? Does the entry date line up? Are the countries correct? Wait -- what countries are even allowed in Arstotzkan today? The list of requirements changes daily. As immigration control, you must seek out discrepancies. Ask questions. Reread the chat transcript. Does their story check out? Watch out for anyone on the Arstotzka most wanted list. Skim the day’s demands before you let someone pass -- or it could mean your job. All done? Drag your paperwork over to the “admit” and “deny” stamp, tap it, and pass the items back over to the traveler.
Some complain about a lack of clear scoring. It may seem as though there isn’t any scoring, only reading and reacting. That’s not quite the case. There are clear winning and losing conditions. Your score is how much money you are earning each time, with the losing condition of running out of funding so your family starves, freezes, and so on. It’s performance-based. So, the faster you go, the more money you can make. Outside factors affect your ability to win, such as your moral conscience, ethics, and commitment to you and your family’s well-being.
Paper, Please won several huge awards including: Forbes Top Indie Game 2013, The New Yorker Best Game 2013, and Game Developers Choice Awards in two categories.
Where can you run this program?
Papers, Please runs on Windows, Mac, and Playstation Vita, and iOS. It is compatible with Windows 2003 and higher.
Is there a better alternative?The Republia Times is similar to Papers, Please. It's created by the same author. This time, you will serve as editor of the newspaper and tilt public opinion to match your political views -- or not. Limbs Repair Station is the science fiction answer to Papers, Please. You will follow the manual to repair limbs. This game isn't about communism or making a statement. Your goal is to beat your fastest time and repair more limbs.
Paper, Please, fits the style of 1982 with blocky graphics, repetitive music, and simple controls. It’s also part of the appeal. It’s stark and minimal. Immigrants alternate between excitement at seeing a family member for the first time in six years, anger at waiting in line for hours, or total silence. Are they hiding something? It’s a world of spies, criminals, terrorists, secret societies, and government agents. Trust the wrong person and it’s your family on the line.
Should I download it?
Yes, if slow-paced games with repetitive tasks are your style, take a look at Paper, Please. The unique approach to storytelling gaming is thoughtful -- and addictive.
- Intriguing story
- Simple game controls
- Escalating challenges
- Choices change the game’s events
- Pixelated nudity and adult themes
- No multiplayer option
- Endless depressing music loop