At a time when games with pet animals and farming, bejeweled like jewel crushing, war strategies and mafia etc. are making the rounds, Papers, Please is like a breath of fresh air. Having played Papers, Please constantly, until the obscure names of the various fictitious places have been written to memory, I wanted to cover the top 3 things I liked about the game and the top 3 places of improvement.
Before I begin, Papers, Please is a desktop game where you are the immigration officer of Arstotzka and have to approve or deny applicants entrance to your country. You analyze their passport and various different papers to confirm the identity of the person, validate that the papers are in order, check that no rules have been broken and then allow the person to enter the country. Meanwhile, you have a family to feed as well and need to pay for rent, food, heat and medicines. Simply put, the game takes the monotonous life of an immigration officer and presents it in a new and exciting “gamified” light.
What is good about the game
- Simply brilliant: The concept of the game, the execution, the challenges are all excellent. During the course of the game play, you are faced with different situations and the outcome of your choices can lead to a change in game play. This means that there is not just one single ending to the game, but multiple ways that can take you to the end. This keeps the player excited about what action to take knowing that your decisions will impact your game.
- Questions your moral fibre: Various different types of people come to the desk of an immigration officer and the officer’s job is to assess the validity of the documents and let the person through. However, what if the person at the counter does not have the right papers, but has a genuine request?- A wife requesting to reunite with her husband, a father looking for justice, a helpless lady asking for your help etc. Would you turn a blind eye and just do your job or would you succumb and let your moral compass guide your direction? Would you take a bribe if it means the survival of your son? The fact that it puts you in so many different situations keeps the game play very interesting and you might end up making choices that you never thought you would.
- Has crazy characters: Some of the characters in Papers, Please seem so genuine that you begin growing a connect with them. My favorite character (actually, might be the only character I remember now) is Jorji Costava. A quirky eccentric man, who never fails to make you laugh everytime he crosses your checkpost. He probably is wasting a lot of precious time everytime he comes by, but what the heck!, he is funny.
What could improve in the game
- Go beyond desktop: In today’s world of connected devices, even core games played on consoles are moving towards mobile. It would be really great to have that same cross device flexibility for Papers, Please as well. However, I also imagine that this is easier said than done since one of the challenges of the game play is to have limited space to verify the documents. If the space is a constraint on a PC, a mobile or tablet might just be next to impossible. Still, would be great to be able to play the game while sitting in the bus, or waiting for your coffee order etc.
- Have a social element to it: The game severely lacks a social element to it. It does not have the options such as seeing how my friends are doing, competing against other players or even recommending the game to my friends. The lack of the social element in the game can result in users not getting hooked on and getting bored (you probably would still play it since you would have paid $10 for the game), the game not going viral etc.
- Reward better: When you start the game, you start in the Story mode that makes you play for 31 days (game days and not days in real life). If you survive the 31 days, then you unlock the Endless mode. The Story mode is exciting and fun, but in contrast, Endless mode is a disappointment. It has no underlying story to the game play and makes the game as boring as a monotonous job.
Overall, Lucas Pope (creator of Papers, Please) deserves every bit of praise he gets and then more for the game.