What does it mean to care about another human being? To worry about their hopes and desires, to show concern when they're putting themselves in danger? And when their dreams are in your hands, when their life is hanging in the balance because of you, do you have the strength of character to do what's right?
That's the idea at the heart of Papers, Please. For all that it's a simulator of a border crossing in some imaginary nation, it's really a game about how we treat each other, and about how we react when we have all the power.
It's a game that tries to teach us something, but does it in an entertaining, often harrowing way. If you want to know what sort of person you are, then playing Papers, Please is going to give you a pretty damn good indication.
I stumbled upon the weirdly fascinating newspaper censorship sim, The Westport Independent, on the show floor this past week and I'm very glad I did. I'd heard about Double Zero One Zero's project a while back but like most games that are still quite a ways off it sort of faded from my mind after that initial interest. And now that I've gotten some hands-on time with a still pre-release build, I'm interested again.
In The Westport Independent you act as the editor of a newspaper in a mid-20th century city that seems just a tad oppressed. Actually it seems like there's a totalitarian government in place, but your perception of the city and its citizens may change depending on how you write the news.
Your job as editor of The Westport Independent is to take a look at potential stories, decide how you'd like to phrase the headline, cherrypick important paragraphs to include (or cut out the ones you don't like), then pick a staff writer to put it all together. Different writers will have different thoughts on the politics involved, and sometimes they might not be happy about covering certain topics. They might get a little... suspicious.
You'll also be handling the distribution of your newspaper to the different districts of the city, but some will value one brand of news over another, which will mean that front page article on police brutality might not go over so well in the ritzy neighborhood. Your newspaper may start to sway the citizens' opinion of their city over time, though. And the types of stories that come up will occasionally tie into previously published articles, allowing you to follow along (and in some cases influence the outcome of) some small but significant goings on.
Of course as you start to get popular, you'll attract more attention. And the more attention you attract, the more likely you are to draw the eye of the police or even the government.
There's no definitive launch info on The Westport Independent yet, but it's going to make its way to the iPad sometime in the hopefully-near future. It's "probably" coming to the iPhone as well, although the smaller screen will require some interface tweaking.
How do you know what apps are worth your time and money? Just look to the review team at 148Apps. We sort through the chaos and find the apps you're looking for. The ones we love become Editor’s Choice, standing out above the many good apps and games with something just a little bit more to offer. Take a look at what we've been up to this week, and find even more in our Reviews Archive.
Fairly tricky to track down in North America, Dragon Quest III’s $9.99 asking price doesn’t seem so bad when placed into the context of eBay prices for a NES or Gameboy Color cartridge. That doesn’t stop Dragon Quest III from seeming rather dated by modern standards, but JRPG fans will enjoy this slice of history. You play the child of a hero, sent to see the King on their 16th birthday before being thrust into an adventure to save the world. Dragon Quest III doesn’t bother with too much originality on this front but it’s forgivable. It adds some more originality and flexibility through its party system. While there’s no chance of being overly attached to your fellow party members, given they’re essentially soulless husks of statistics, they do offer plenty of potential. You simply head to the local tavern to recruit your party and then head out, forming them into exactly what you want of an ally. --Jennifer Allen
Roaming the Oddworld version of the Wild West is the Stranger: a gruff bounty hunter turning wanted criminals in for cash. There are a few gameplay styles on offer here, the first being the third-person platforming that allows for navigation of each area, as well as basic combat. The second is a first-person shooting mode that enables players to think more strategically by making use of a variety of critters that can be captured and used against enemies. Will they use a Bolamite to tie up their enemies, a Chippunk to draw them away from their buddies, or just electrocute them into submission with a Zapfly? Either way, the freedom of approach is an excellent touch. Last of all is the stealth element, giving players the option to take out enemies one by one by setting off traps or creating them, all while hidden from view amidst tall grass. These different styles come together seamlessly to give players the ability to decide how they resolve the matter at hand, preventing Stranger’s Wrath from feeling too linear and monotonous, and instead feeling fresh and exciting. --Lee Hamlet
As unlikely as it might sound, I had a job once that was vaguely like playing Papers, Please. It wasn’t on the border control of a corrupt state, but it did involve conducting background checks on people and checking that their papers as well as their stories added up. I stuck around as there was a strange satisfaction in looking out for discrepancies, and I also happened to be quite good at it. Papers, Please succeeds partially because of that similar sense of satisfaction, but also because of a storyline that draws you in bit by bit. Not that it should, technically. The idea of a game all about working on border control, checking over people’s papers before either admitting them to the country or rejecting them, really isn’t that fascinating on the surface. Two things save Papers, Please from being monotonous, however. The first is how, on a simple level, it gradually introduces new elements to what’s expected of you. --Jennifer Allen
Text editing apps are fairly commonplace on the App Store, but every now and then one will come along that clicks that bit more easily than the last. 1 Writer is one such app. Simple to use but reasonably powerful as well, it’s the kind of text editor that works just as well for taking notes quickly as it is for more powerful markdown-based work. A quick tap on the plus sign guides you straight into things. You can choose to just type away as normal or opt to throw in links, bold, italics, lists, and even images. Along the way, 1 Writer can upload it all to Dropbox and generate the relevant markdown syntax for you. A cursory swipe to the right takes you to a built-in web browser, lending itself well to research purposes. --Jennifer Allen
Flyhunter Origins from Ripstone and Steel Wool Games offers a solid demonstration of how mobile games are getting a bit ahead of themselves. Players zip through Flyhunter Origins as Zak, an alien janitor aboard a flyhunting spaceship. During some impromptu roleplay, Zak accidentally jettisons the ship’s crew and its cargo (bugs) into space. Then they promptly fall back to Earth. Zak needs to round up the crew and the bugs or else he risks making his powerful boss very unhappy. --Nadia Oxford
Recently, I was given the chance to review the 10 Digits learning toy – wood numbers that interact with the iPad and other tablets. Two apps work in tangent to this number set that teaches basic number recognition, addition and the manipulation of numbers up to one hundred within these Montessori-styled applications. I was eager to test this new toy as its brightly colored classic good looks and wooden construction remind me of the wood number puzzle my son had as a toddler, which he loved and oddly anthropomorphized by dragging these numbers within their frame to listen to stories or play with other toys as though this puzzle would take an interest in these activities. A close look at each of these wooden numbers from the 10 Digits toy will find three soft plastic feet on the back to allow these pieces to work on top of the screen of the device. Each foot pattern is unique; they’re akin to Braille and work with the iPad and other tablets to recognize each number in use. Both the apps 10 Fingers and Up to 100 have free lite versions to download and unlock easily using the 10 Digit toy pieces. I admire the clean look of these apps; the white screen, boldly colored numbers, and other details seen with bright translucent colors and subtle brush strokes are details reminiscent of felt tip markers on a dry erase board. --Amy Solomon
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If you are looking for the best reviews of Android apps, just head right over to AndroidRundown. Here are just some of the reviews served up this week:
Being fit is gently moving on from being a pastime to being a habit of successful people. Of course, as the need to be healthy becomes more pervasive, it is natural to see more and more tools that have a mobile component. It makes sense… smartphones are the ubiquitous pocket companions. The Pear System looks to bridge this gap, first by being a veritable heart rate measuring tool, and then by wirelessly connecting data via one’s Android device. The review package Pear send to us highlights the system; the review packet contains the Pearl heart rate monitor, a chest strap, headphones and a carrying pouch. Most of th pieces are bathed or accented in bright blue. The HRM unit is diminutive, with the company logo tastefully stamped on the front. The back has two press-in buttons and the battery cover. The strap is black, with the press-in receptacles, and is adjustable and stretchy. The headphones look simple, but have interesting buds, and there is a button on the right ear. Finally, the carry pouch is light and zippered. --Tre Lawrence
Star Wars Galactic Defence is a pretty basic tower defence game. Enemies of different types run along lanes in each level. The player must build a series of towers to prevent the m enemies reaching a certain area . After each level the player receives a rank depending on how many enemies they managed to stop. Player can also select 1-3 heroes for each level. These heroes can be freely controlled. Star Wars Galactic Defence doesn’t stray far from this formula and indeed lacks fairly basic tower defence features, like an upgrade system or hero skills. The only hint of progression in the game is new towers that are unlocked at certain levels. Galactic Defence doesn’t just encourage players to replay previous levels, it requires it. Every level after the first is so difficult that it is nigh on impossible to repeat earlier levels to gain money and hero experience. Enemies simply flood in and getting three stars is difficult indeed. This is the polar opposite of fun and is compounded by the fact that to unlock later levels the player must acquire a certain amount of stars. --Allan Curtis
Call of Duty: Heroes, despite its action game roots has more in common with Clash of Clans than with Modern Combat. Does the mammoth license of CoD make it a good game? After an initial battle, like other city builder games, the player is put in charge of constructing a base from the ground up including resource buildings, troop training facilities and base defence. This proceeds slowly. After a few resource buildings are ticking over the player can begin to crank out an army. These range from average rifle wielding grunts to..other slightly different soldiers such as RPG ones. --Allan Curtis
And finally, what were the ten most watched videos on AppSpy? What are the best gamebooks on Android? And just how good is Galcon 2? All of these questions, and at least four more, are all answered on AppSpy's lovely website this week.
Also this week, Pocket Gamer finished off its advent calendar with five more amazing freebies, reviewed the new SimCity and Brothers in Arms games, and reported on the most Googled game of 2014. It wasn't Destiny... All that and loads more, right here.
Good news, comrades! Word has been getting around that the dystopian paper-shuffling simulator Papers, Please is bound for iPad. Actually this news has been circulating for what feels like forever. But the wait is finally over. It's been announced that Lucas Pope's game about the mundane activity of checking paperwork at a border checkpoint (which is anything but mundane, really) is officially coming to iPad. Tomorrow.
If you haven't played Papers, Please for yourself yet, you'll have the opportunity in only a few hours. In the meantime, know that it's a surprisingly dark and somewhat disturbing story about an oppressive government, dangerous extremists, a rebellion, and a hapless paper pusher who gets caught in the middle. That, and lots and lots of cross-checking passports.
Papers, Please will be $5.99 once it releases tomorrow (12/12), and will go up to $7.99 after the weekend.
Pocket Gamer reports that Double Zero One Zero has announced their Papers, Please-esque "censorship simulator," The Westport Independent, will be making its way to iOS. In the game you play the role of the editor of an independent newspaper based in Westport - a city of liars, politicians, and rioters. The citizens rely on your newspaper to get the truth, and it's up to you to decide what to print. In the meantime, you also have a guidebook from the government to follow if you want to stay on their good side.
Here, Game designer Pontus Lundén explains the newest addition of the game, with your decisions now also possibly affecting the lives of your journalists as well as yourself:
Throughout the game you will censor articles, pick out headlines, and layout your paper. Your actions will affect the peoples' opinion of both the rebels and the Loyalist government. At the same time, it'll also affect the lives of your employees. They have both their lives and the lives of their families to protect, so don't blame them if they don't want to follow you onto the Loyalist's or the rebel's hit list.
The Westport Independent will be coming to iOS, but no release date has been hinted at yet.
Pocket Gamer reports that Lucas Pope, the indie developer of the recently released game Papers, Please, is looking to port the title to the iPad. However, Pope said that he is concerned about Apple's approval system and hopes the game can make it through the process as it touches on a few sensitive issues, such as suicide bombings and nudity.
Pope also mentioned to Pocket Gamer that "the first move will be to put the game in the Mac App Store and see how it goes. If it makes it through that review, then I'll feel more confident about an iOS App Store approval".
Papers, Please features a rather dark setting as you take the role of an immigration inspector on the border of Arstotzka. It's your job to approve or deny visitors by viewing their paperwork, making sure that those with invalid credentials are stopped.
Below you'll find the trailer to the PC version of the game.