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What’s Killing My Social Life This Week – Papers, Please

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Are you skipping through the wilderness, merrily picking flowers for your mate? Is your every waking moment a blissful high of infatuation and excitement? Do you long for the days when you’ll have to buy excessive amounts of chocolate and lovingly shove them in your partner’s face? Well, if so then play Papers Please, so you can plummet inside the same black hole of depression the rest of us are currently occupying.

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Papers Please is an indie, simulation game developed by 3909 and renowned for its ability to make angels weep themselves to death. In it you play as a passport clerc on the borders of East Grestin, back in the good old Soviet-Russia times. Your job is to allow the entry of people with the right paperwork, into the country, and kick away anyone that doesn’t, exercising extreme caution and emotional apathy as you do. At the same time you need to ensure that you and your hopelessly-ephemeral family scrap together enough breadcrumbs and bare bones to live for another tortuous day.
The gameplay consists mostly of clicking and dragging things into view, along with playing “spot the difference” with 15 separate legal documents and permits. Each day you go to work, for a set amount of time and each night get told how much money you earned and how much you’re actually going to get. During work you have to examine other people’s IDs, items, tickets, favourite dancing styles etc, before stamping their passports with a satisfying ka-chunk of either admission or denial. If you get it wrong, then you get a warning and/or a fine, otherwise you’re paid normally. There’s only a limited amount of people you can inspect every day, since your working hours are relatively short, the slightest mistake could eventually cost you dearly. Events are driven by your actions, meaning that the difficulty of the game might increase based on who you let in; if, say, a previously-suspicious visitor ended up causing devastating, magic unicorn explosions, then you’ll have to start testing newcomers for their affinity with horse-based pyrotechnics.

And remember how I mentioned depression earlier? Well this game has it all, ranging from “feeling kinda down” to “there is an invisible heart-shaped hole in my chest”. The story is masterfully written and carefully handled, so that each encounter with another human being leaves one of you wishing they were dead. It really captures that crushing despair sensation associated with living under Russian rule circa 1952, as the dark forces of the State loom ever closer, transforming the world around you into a crude façade of its former self. The people you admit or send away are no different that you; survivors grasping at the crumbling remains of a once happy nation, struggling to stay afloat a bleak sea made from the blood and tears of the less fortunate. And you’re the one who decides their fates, sometimes unwittingly. In the end, your mighty stamp is what leads them to either salvation, or damnation. Your hand is the one to seal their future. Yet, ironically, even with all that authority you’re still an insignificant part of a larger, more sinister power, beyond anyone’s control; you’re still a tiny, worthless speck in a cruel, uncaring country, unable to do anything about it.

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To sum up, Papers Please is a very depressing game that will lead you to many a restless nights of crying and gobbling ice-cream in despair. Its enthralling narrative left me half-loving, half-hating the game, while its increasing difficulty level, had me just hating it. Simply a must-have in the arsenal of a killjoy.

-The Fairy Wizard

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Posted on February 19, 2015, in Reviews, Video Games, What's Killing My Social Life This Week and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Well any job kills your social life and Papers,Please is a job 🙂 I really like it though, but as a programmer I need to always look for inconsistencies.

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