I’ve opted to greenlight very few games on Steam. First, there was Black Mesa. It was the first game to be approved through the program and yet it still isn’t available. Second, there was Cook, Serve, Delicious. Sadly, it never received enough votes and still sits idle. Third, there was Papers, Please. It was approved and now, a good six months or so later, it’s finally available on Steam.
Papers, Please is an interesting little game where you work in a border checkpoint of a fictional communist nation during the ‘80s. The goal is simple: follow the rules issued to you and approve or deny as many people for entry into the country as possible each day. It starts off as simple as checking to see if they have a passport that’s not expired, but eventually it gets so complex that you could be juggling as many as five documents that need to be checked.
There’s a story as well, woven smartly between the layers of bureaucracy. The number of people you process has a direct impact on your pay, which you must use to pay for housing, food, and heat for your family. Often, money is very tight. If a family member gets sick, you’ll need to pay for medicine as well. Sometimes, people passing through the checkpoint may attempt to bribe you or the security guards will bring you in on scams; these offers become very attractive when half your family is sick and you haven’t been able to afford heat for several days.
Each traveler trying to enter the country seems to have a small storyline of their own. Sometimes you’ll see the same person each day, trying and failing to abide by your strict policies. Sometimes wanted criminals will try to pass through and you’ll get a chance to apprehend them. A lot of times you have to make fairly difficult choices. Early on in the game, a man passes through the checkpoint with good documents and tells you to be kind to his wife, who is next in line. His wife, however, doesn’t have the required documents to enter. Do you stick to the rules and turn her away, separating the two of them and potentially dooming her to the country she is fleeing? Or do you let her in regardless, risking the ever-suspicious attention of your government overseers? It can get tough!
Eventually there are even long-term storylines you can stumble into, but I don’t want to give too much about the game away right here. It’s worth noting that the game has 20 endings and an endless mode, so there’s certainly enough content to keep you busy for a while.
In an attempt to “judge” Papers, Please, I found myself frustrated when I couldn’t find anything about the game that I had issues with. The game feels totally unique and I don’t know that I’ve ever played anything like it before. In addition, any time something happened that annoyed me in the game, it was my fault. I wasn’t paying close enough attention; it’s not the game’s fault that I forgot to check for matching birthdates or appropriate seals on documents repeatedly.
Papers, Please is only 10 bucks on Steam and it’s well worth the price. There’s plenty of content to make the game last a while. I’ve been playing it pretty much nonstop and have only unlocked three endings so far; I haven’t even started to get into endless mode. I guarantee you haven’t played anything quite like it before, and for that reason alone it’s worth checking out.