Release date: December 14, 2014
Developer: Lucas Pope
Is the primary purpose of video games to be fun? And do they have to be fun to be great? If you scoff at even the thought of pondering these questions, I’ll assume you’ve never played Papers, Please.
Part puzzle game and part bizarre sim, Papers, Please casts you not as a hero or adventurer of some sort but as a low level beaureacrat — an immigration inspector, to be exact. Most of the gameplay revolves around you deciding whether or not you should admit hopeful folks into your fictional country, hopefully not making too many mistakes so you can earn enough money to survive. That’s not a given, considering you’ve got to provide food and shelter for your family.
It gets harder as it goes, too, and the sticky moral situations you’ll find yourself in only add to the stress. There’s a grander story to tie it all together — this is a video game, after all, and not a novel or some more static art form — with more different endings than you’ll probably ever uncover even if you went back through the whole thing two dozen times.
Whether you’d want to or not is certainly debatable. Papers, Please is a game I’m glad to have tried, but I’m not sure I’m prepared to put myself back in the same mindset to play it again. Think about that phrase carefully and realize it’s actually high praise.