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Saturday, October 19, 2013

Papers, Please

Papers, Please is a game that I've been addicted to for some time.  Despite several story play-throughs I still find myself coming back, if even just to play in endless mode.  I don't know, there's something innately relaxing about mindless tasks.

In the fictional country of Arstotzka, you have been assigned the glorious job of being a Border Checkpoint Inspector.  The premise is simple:  check each entrant's papers for adherence to Arstotzka's rules.  Those that pass muster get allowed in.  Those that do not are turned away.  Of course, things don't remain so simple.

This is what the game interface looks like most of the time.  You can see what's going on outside your station in the above section of the screen, and you have a couple resources at your station to evaluate entrants to Arstotzka.  Note in the above example that there are quite a few rules in the book to keep in mind.  The game starts with only a few, and slowly piles on new rules with each day.

If you can't find any errors, they get a green stamp in their passport.

If you do find errors, you need to point them out.  In the above example, this guy's Access Permit had expired.

Sorry, buddy.  Better luck next time

Things can get pretty complicated, requiring different methods of verifying data, like comparing fingerprints.

Any error on your part results in an annoying little pink slip printing out and dropping on your desk.  In story mode, it's even worse.  You have a limited amount of time each day to process as many people as you can.  You are paid for every correct processing (whether they were denied or allowed entry), but are not paid if you make a mistake.  Several mistakes can result in docking pay.  At the end of each day, you have to pay rent, buy food, and pay utilities for your family.  No utilities or food could mean family members getting sick, requiring expensive medicine.  Some might die.  

Interestingly enough, the story mode starts bringing in moral choices.  Some of the people you run into can be very convincing in why they need to get through.  Some political, some personal.  One lady needed heart surgery only available in Arstotzka, and begs to be let in.  ...but any action on your part against the rules will actively hurt your family.  Do you focus on your family above all others?  Do political tensions convince you to attempt to leave the country?  Do your ideals take priority over your son's medicine?

It's an interesting experiment, and the game has many endings, and thus, a lot of replay value.

This guy's passport says he's a lady
But he sure doesn't like me asking about it.
Body scanner shows this guy is not a lady.
 Arstotzka is not known for it's tolerance of transgendered peoples.

Some people don't go quietly, either.

The shit some people try to sneak through the border...
All in all, I like the game.  A lot.  Some of my friends have laughed at the game as being too much like work... but I don't know.  The storyline can get rather tense, and keeps me interested.  Then there's Endless Mode, which is kind of relaxing, oddly.  Kind of like a puzzle game.

If this even marginally piques your interest, give it a shot.  It's $10 on Steam.

Glory to Arstotzka.
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