One of the best games ever has just become available to download on your iPad tablet: Papers, Please. Created by a former developer at Naughty Dog, the company behind the immensely popular Uncharted series, it has been a critical success among gamers since it first arrived on Windows and OS X platforms last August. Between Screens, IGN and many more have given it great reviews.
The game sees you play as an immigration officer on the border of a fictional Eastern European country called Arstotzka. Set during the communist 1980s, your job is to determine who should and who should not be allowed to cross into the nation. It requires following strict and complicated rules such as body-scanning citizens of certain nations, checking for forged stamps, and monitoring height and weight to make sure entrants aren’t potentially smuggling. You are paid for each correct decision made.
The concept of a game in which one plays a border guard sounds tedious, but in practice it’s one of the most morally complex games you will find. Papers, Please demands that you keep your family healthy by paying for food, medicine and heating. Along the way, you will meet a number of dilemmas to ensure this happens – accepting bribes from known criminals at the behest of your job security, for instance, or risking working with terrorist agents for a fee against your own nation.
The simple point-and-click gameplay means that it’s easy for anyone to pick up. Similarly, the game manages to never become dull because of its brilliantly straight-forward graphics which throwback to the 2D aesthetics of old. However, the real draw of the game is how it puts you firmly in its character’s shoes and forces you to endure the same difficult decisions he faces on a daily basis. Giving the player the power to choose what path a protagonist takes is one of the things that make video games unique as an art form – we’ve also seen it done in Mass Effect, Metal Gear Solid and The Walking Dead – and it’s executed to perfection here.