App Reviewed on: iPhone SE
User Interface Rating:
Replay Value Rating:
I had never played Papers, Please until about a month ago when it came out with an updated interface for phones. It's strange to play a game that has been so thoroughly discussed and celebrated for years. That said, it seems like most folks happen to be right. Papers, Please is an incredible game that has a vision that is so stark and well-defined that it hits hard even on smaller screens and all these years later.
Papers, Please puts you in the position of a border officer for the fictional nation of Arstotzka. For the most part, this job is pretty straightforward. You are given instructions each morning about the proper protocols for letting individuals into the country and then you get to decide whether or not to let in people based on said protocols.
Even at its most basic, this routine is surprisingly fun and varied, though it doesn't take long for Papers, Please to start complicating the kinds of checks you need to be doing, as well as reconsider whether you should be doing everything you're being told to do.
Something I'm sure others have lauded Papers, Please for (but is worth restating now) is just how elegantly the game puts you in a moral quandary. A lot of games tend to give you freedom of choice to be a "good" person or a "bad" person or otherwise just offer up two bad choices to make. In Papers, Please, though, it's pretty clear that your job perpetuates an unjust status quo, but the wages from that job are what allow you and your family to survive.
This puts you in a position where you're constantly asking yourself to what degree you should or should not obey orders, and this kind of decision-making feels like it has been rising ever closer to the surface of our cultural consciousness since its release. This is to say I'm not sure I've played a game that feels as prescient as Papers, Please feels, even though I am coming to it almost ten years late.
Scrutinize the small stuff
On phones, Papers, Please does feel slightly cramped, but definitely more than playable. I had a few instances where I got citations because pictures didn't match up with people's faces even though they looked right to me, but that didn't stop me from reaching the logical conclusion of my playthrough.
I also didn't feel quite as efficient in processing folks as I might on a bigger screen, but I can't tell for sure because I haven't tried the game elsewhere. I would play it on my iPad but that locks to vertical orientation and I'm not a fan of playing games on a tablet that way.
The bottom line
Unsurprisingly, a game people have lauded for years turns out to be as good as they say it is. Playing Papers, Please on a phone is mostly good, too. If you haven't played it, Papers, Please holds up extremely well. I had a hard time sitting down and playing it for more than one shift day at a time, but that's just a testament to how well it still delivers its message.