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February 19, 2014

Papers, Please Full Review


(NOTE: Due to issues with my work, I have to change the schedule once again. Not to worry, though, this will be the final change. Tune in Friday for the new details. Sorry for the inconvenience, people!)

*** 

A simple stamp can mean the difference between life and death......or a couple of bucks to spend on your family's food, water and rent. 

Sorry, sick guy, my son needs mercy more than you do.

Reviewed By: Kyle van Rensburg (Head Writer)

Verdict: Caution Advised (For Optional Non-Sexual Nudity, Infrequent Strong Language and Mature Themes)


Release Date: August 2013

Developer: Lucas Pope

Publisher: Steam Greenlight

Platforms: Linux, OS X, PC

Genre: Puzzle/Simulation



Areas of Concern:


Violence:

Mild Moderate Heavy Very Heavy Extreme Offensive

(All of the violence is depicted through pixel-art and at a distance, which reduces the graphic content substantially.)

--Men on motorcycles attack a checkpoint; guards are shot down, with blood spraying. Their vehicles can be blown up, with explosions being seen and body parts strewn over the environment, bloodlessly.

--A man is run over by a car, leaving a large bloody smear behind it and the man's bloodstained and mangled body is shown. 

--A man can be poisoned; he staggers and falls over, spitting out blood onto the ground and dying. Another man touches him, with the same results.

--A man throws a grenade at another man, but he is shot in the process, falling over with blood spraying. The grenade explodes, knocking the man over and partially severing his leg, blood shown (this is depicted from a long distance away).

--A man suicide bombs at a border; we see a huge explosion and severed limbs, no blood, and the guards nearby have their legs and backs torn apart, with blood.

Context of Violence: Shock Value (The violence usually comes abruptly and as a huge surprise. While not over-the-top or particularly graphic, it's hard not to cringe or jump once it happens.)

Sex/Nudity:

Mild Moderate Heavy Very Heavy Extreme Offensive

--The game includes a "Search" option when certain criteria are met, in which people are stripped naked behind a curtain and taken photos of. Full frontal nudity for both male and female genders are shown in detail.

NOTE: There is an option to turn this off under "Settings" when you start up the game, or as a clickable option when you press escape while playing the game. When turned off, the people are stripped down to their underwear instead. 

--Women working at a brothel frequently travel across the checkpoint. They leave notes with silhouettes of suggestively dancing women, and it is verbally mentioned that it is a brothel. The women who give the notes often flirt with you, saying they'd like to service you or give you company, etc.

Context of Sex/Nudity: References, Justified (During the early stages of the game, references to brothels occur. The game later includes a body scanner in much the same vein as the TSA Body Scanners, which may justify it by showing a real-life occurrence.)

Language:

Mild Moderate Heavy Very Heavy Extreme Offensive

Infrequent Uses of F**k, S**t, B**ch, B**t**d, C**p, H**l and D**n.

Context of Language: Grittiness (Language is used to add salt to dialogue. Nothing stresses it's necessity, though.)

Spiritual Content: 

Mild Moderate Heavy Very Heavy Extreme Offensive

Nothing.

Context of Spiritual Content:

Drugs/Alcohol/Smoking:

Mild Moderate Heavy Very Heavy Extreme Offensive

--During body searches, drugs often turn up, depicted as long tubes or cases of pills taped to a leg or back. A man is referenced to be a drug dealer.

Context of Drugs/Alcohol/Tobacco Usage: References, Justified (As drugs are turned up in the real-life occupation of being an Immigration Officer, this may justify some of the drug references.)

Morality:

Abysmal Bad So-so Okay Good Very Good

Morally grey decisions are the life bread of this game. There are many situations, as in real-life, where people who are in desperate need to get out of tough situations don't have the required documentation. 

Players are forced to make tough decisions, but they always have the option to do the right thing.

Morality Type: Shades of Grey (Will you choose to deny them, or let them through, even if they could possibly be a terrorist? Or deny them, and provide enough money for your family to live through another day?)

Review of Game:


Gameplay: Papers Please presents us with a simplistic puzzle game at it's core, with only a mere stamp and a few clicks being the gameplay.

Anyone who has played this will know that the preceding is a gross oversimplification. Papers, Please involves many complex decisions, most of which are morally grey.

The bulk of the gameplay is spent on verifying identification papers, which get progressively more complex as the game goes on. Players start off the game with a simple objective; to deny all foreigners and only approve your own citizens.

It starts off as a basic Deny and Approve game, but once you can start identifying papers, things get more in-depth. A simple misspelling in the Issuing City means that you have a forgery on your hands. You are immediately given the option to detain such a person, or simply deny them with no consequence.

The game does get a bit repetitive in the last act, with very little changes being made. I got a bored at a couple of parts, but those were minor quibbles. The majority of the game manages to stay fresh and interesting.

Story: The story of Papers, Please is one of corruption, betrayal, conspiracy and murder, all shown through the eyes of a neutral bystander - You.

While the story doesn't feature you as the protagonist, you are the emotional centre of the story, showing us the cold Orwellian world of the fictional communist state of Arstotzka. (Yeah, I have no idea how to pronounce that.)

Trapped in a horrible situation, you are contrasted by people who are looking for new places to stay, who have freedom of movement...if you grant them freedom, that is. The relationship between the Immigrant and Immigration Officer is one of a cold, hard attitude, although mercy can be shown for some people.

The story doesn't really satisfy, but it provides a great atmosphere, one of grimness, yet it still manages to throw in some comedic moments to alleviate the mood.

The character of Jorji Costava is one that will stick out in your head, being the summary of moral complexity. I don't want to spoil anything, but let's just say that you'll be surprised what you learn about him. And you'll still like him regardless.

Quality Verdict: Great (B+)
 
Grim, oppressive yet immersive and fun all at the same time, Papers, Please is the type of game that will change your attitude about a controversial real-life occupation and make you question your own morality, even in spite of it's own issues with repetition.

Conclusion:

Straight off the bat, a lot of people will take issue with the nudity in this game. I personally disabled it, even though it could be considered as justified because of the context, I still would rather not see it.

The language comes across as unnecessary, but what can you do about it? It's all in written form, so this may make things different because reading swear words is different than hearing them, at least in my humble opinion.

As for the violence, it does make an impact. You'll be left with your jaw hanging open as some events occur, especially towards the end of the game.

All in all, the game is okay for people with the adequate maturity to sit through it's heavy themes. And for people who don't want to see the nudity, there is an option to disable it. I hereby give it, a Caution Advised.

Verdict: 16+



For Optional Non-Sexual Nudity, Infrequent Strong Language and Mature Themes.


Outro: *KACHUNK* This game wins my stamp of approval. I don't know about you, but I'll look at immigration officers with a sympathetic eye when traveling through other countries...

How about you? What did you think of the game and it's content? How about Jorji Costava? Is he your new favourite video game character as well?

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