PAPERS, PLEASE Turns Bureaucracy into a Video Game [Review]

Papers, Please
Lucas Pope
Puzzle, Point and Click
Lucas Pope
Steam, PS Vita
Single Player

I am a sucker for strange games. I love games that go for an odd approach, sprinkle in a touch of surrealism and pile on a heaping helping of crazy. Eternal Darkness, Amnesia Dark Decent, Killer 7, God Hand… I just love games that make everything weird and funny. But when I heard about a hit video game that was basically a “Border Control Bureaucracy Simulator” I was like “WTF?!”

Papers, Please is admittedly a deceptive game at first glance. It presents itself as an 8-bit game with a dull premise: The Glorious Republic of Arstotzka has opened its border and as a Border Inspector and is your job to let good people out and stop criminals from escaping. You are given tools such as scans, fingerprints checkers and alarms to stop suspicious or undocumented people. Too many mistakes and you lose your job and are arrested. At first, it feels like you are a dull government agent in one of those ex-Soviet nations. You earn a wage based on how many people you process each day which goes to support your family.

The game’s charm, however, lies in the choices you are forced to make based on the story. You see, as you control the borders the situation on neighboring countries deteriorates and a group called EZIC begins to plan a coup. Laws change and you are forced to make tough choices such as letting persecuted people escape in exchange for a smaller salary or allowing terrorists to pass if they slip you a small bribe. Each decision you make will affect the background story and eventually leads to one of 20 different endings.

papers-please-BossDesigner Lucas Pope manages to create a engaging world out of an apparently dull and boring job. In a stroke of pure genius Pope just doesn’t ask us to brainlessly act, but to “ponder and consider” every social, political and emotional decision an Immigration Officer must perform: Will you be a nationalist, a revolutionary or just a selfish bastard? Is up to you to chose and perform accordingly and accept the consequences of your actions.

The game really makes you feel like an Immigration officer… and that’s also where the game’s main flaw resides. As interesting as Papers, Please can be, it’s not a game that anyone can easily pick up and play. It takes time to get used to the mechanics and you will find yourself knowing that something is wrong but having a hard time knowing how to fix it. Beyond that, it’s a game that requires patience and dedication to master even in its easier setting.


Though Papers, Please is not a game I would recommend to everyone, it is a game I would recommend to those looking for an in-depth gaming experience or seeking to explore alternatives to fast action games.


+ Deep storyline
+ Makes paper-pushing fun
+ Variety of endings


Tricky gameplay mechanics
Not for casual gamers

Written by Borja Chavarri

Borja Chavarri is your average, introverted late teen suffering from split personality disorder and born under a radioactive cloud of red evil. "They" enjoy Deviantart and plotting against each other when they are not looking. Is not clear how many of “them” exist but zombies coup d’état attempts has been registered inside the main body almost daily.

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