It’s been 10 years since acclaimed “dystopian document thriller” Papers, Please first released, and to celebrate that milestone, developer Lucas Pope has released an official Game & Watch inspired demake, as well as discounting the original by 80% on all platforms.
Papers, Please made its debut on 8th August 2013, casting players as an immigration officer on the border of fictional Eastern Bloc country, Arstotzka. On the face of it, the task it sets is simple, requiring players – via a gloriously tactile interface – to crosscheck paperwork with the information provided by each visitor in order to decide whether to approve or deny their entry.
As time goes on, though, complications arise, and as individual stories begin to unfold, a challenging sense of morality weighs on proceedings. You’ve a family to support at home and a pitiful salary in which to do so; bribes are offered; threats of terrorism loom, and what seem like simple decisions can mean the difference between life and death.
Dan Whitehead called Papers, Please “compelling, challenging and genuinely unnerving” in his 2013 review for Eurogamer, saying, “It’s game that leaves a scar, forcing you to confront your own capacity for evil, without the comforting framing device of role-play and morality meters. It’s not a game you’ll fire up for a 10-minute distraction, but it is a game you should play if you have any interest in how games can explore more than just bombastic wish fulfilment.”
Unsurprisingly, Pope’s newly released demake doesn’t have either the depth or emotional impact of its progenitor, but it’s an interesting distillation of the original’s ideas all the same. You’ll still stamp papers and assess visitors’ claims, and things get a little more juicy on “hard” mode, which introduces wrinkles in the form of VIP entrants, Wanted posters, and Banned posters. Plus it’s all pulled off with a wonderfully realised lo-fi LCD aesthetic.
It’s no replacement for the real thing, of course, and if you haven’t yet experienced Papers, Please, you can current pick it up with 80% discount across all platforms. On Steam, that means it’s available for £1.38 instead of the usual £6.99, but it’s also reduced on GOG, the Humble Store, iOS, and Android. And in related news, Pope’s folow-up to Papers, Please – the masterful nautical deduction adventure Return of the Obra Dinn – is also discounted by 40% on Steam.