Papers, Please! The grim life of an East Grestin immigration officer

Our review and tips to get you started on the award winning puzzle/thriller.

Papers, Please! The grim life of an East Grestin immigration officer

Welcome comrade; please have all your documentation ready for inspection.

‘Papers, please’ is a puzzle game developed and published by 3909LLC and released in 2013 on Windows that puts game-play over graphics. You are a border crossing immigration officer in the fictional dystopian Eastern bloc-like country of Arstotska. Each day you walk to your booth at the border and must process immigrants attempting to enter the glorious country of Arstotska.

via Gfycat

With each passing day, new rules are added to the immigration policy with more and more checks and documentation required. With the ever increasing complications of bureaucracy, it can be difficult not to slip up and make mistakes. You will know if you have missed something as you will receive a faxed citation from the Ministry of admissions (and financial penalty on the 3rd strike).

Papers, Please! Our review and tips to get you started

Considering that your salary is based upon how many immigrants you have processed correctly, making too many mistakes can be costly. At the end of each day you must choose how to spend your meagre wages, on food, heat, booth upgrades or medicine for your family. Looking on forums, it would appear most players alternate days between paying for food for the family and heat for the apartment: paying for both each day simply will not be possible on your paltry wages.

Papers, Please! Our review and tips to get you started 1

Not only is there a constant shifting political climate which will affect the rules implemented within the immigration policy, but you will be faced with moral decisions as well. In my own play through I had a foreign gentleman who was seeking asylum and looking to immigrate, passing all of the appropriate checks. He mentions to me that his wife is in the queue behind him and to please be kind to her. When his wife enters the Border crossing booth, she has her passport but no entry permit. Do you do your duty and separate husband and wife? She exclaims herself that if she gets sent back to her country, she will most likely be killed. If you allow her through however you will gain a citation for an incorrectly processed immigrant.

There are often events like this that will test your moral compass. You may be rewarded for breaking the rules, so you must pick and choose when to be lapse with your paperwork. Just when you think that you are on a roll and the days processing is going well, there will be a terrorist attack and the day will be cut short decreasing your potential earnings (never mind the poor border guards that lose their lives #stickmenmattertoo).

The game’s popularity has even inspired a short 10 minute film which you can see here;

Lucas Pope, the designer who developed papers please came up with the idea after witnessing the behaviour of immigration officers from his own international travels. Coupling this with the excitement of espionage/spy movies, Pope sets the scene for the immigration officer to be the one to challenge spies moving in and out of the country with fake travel documents.

If you have a keen eye for detail and don’t like to lose, this is the game for you. Obvious things such as a passport number not matching that of the entry permit, photos not matching or the entry permit itself not even being available, are easy to spot. However, anyone processed after 6pm will not be included in your wages causing a rush at the days end. When you are trying to get as many people processed by 6pm, you can overlook things such as their height or the issuing city on their passport not being valid. It is a game of learning processes and information; to work as quickly and efficiently as possible. It is certainly a test to one’s mental acuity.

Here at the Syndicate of Geeks, we haven’t got that far, but we have a few tips for any n00bs out there struggling to get started;

1. Open shop when you are ready
At the beginning of each day, time is frozen. This give you time to read through the latest bulletin with rule changes and other important information. As you progress your desk can become cluttered with paperwork. Use this time to arrange the papers in a logical order to make things easier once immigrants begin streaming into the booth. You may also get items that state “hang on wall”. These can be dragged to display behind where the immigrants stand within the booth, freeing up clutter on the desk. Just be sure that any sports memorabilia poster is not obscuring your vision from seeing the height chart!

2. Give it back when you’re done
As someone enters the booth, we drag the passport immediately open and then grab the entry permit as the first thing to actually study. It’s a bulky piece of paperwork, so the sooner you are done with it, the sooner you can throw it back to the person and not clutter your desk. As the immigrant is making their opening statement, we check the details as they say them. Check the permit for a valid seal, the names match, the entry date and duration, reason for permit etc with the audio transcript. Place it back on the counter in front of the immigrant once you are satisfied. You can always take it back if you need to double check. (Bare in mind we are only a couple of weeks in, but if you are further than that then you really do not need this tips section!)

3. Know the rules
Try to familiarize yourself with as much of the rule-book as possible as this will save time on keep going back and cross referencing things such as valid issuing cities for the different nationalities. Also, it is referencing the basic rules section is how you highlight a discrepancy if an immigrant is missing paperwork all together.

4. Know when to break the rules
When you muck up, you will hear the fax machine whirl into life and a citation/violation will be given to you. 2 strikes and then you will start facing penalties and fines. This resets each day however, so it means you have a buffer of a couple of incorrect processed people each day. As stated in our write up, you may get rewarded for bending the rules for some people. Be wise as to when you do this however, as the fines will add up and outweigh any other benefits if you let everyone through.

5. Complacency is the enemy
Check everything! I get caught out regularly on “valid issuing cities” for passports, because I think I recognize it and I just accept it without checking. Also, the amount of citations I have received for “invalid gender” is far more than it should be. Now I know this is 2019, but this is a dystopian Eastern-bloc crossing set in 1982: There are only 2 genders as far as the games is concerned. Whether there are more or not in later weeks we have yet to see, but it would certainly add another element of complication to the convoluted processing.

If that’s not enough, we found a fantastic cheat sheet compiled by Doctor_Nick which gives you a good heads up. We couldn’t find a way of getting in touch with the creator to thank them, but I may use it myself!

Papers, Please! Our review and tips to get you started 2

So, that should be enough to get you started! ‘Papers, please’ is currently £6.99 at full price on the steam store and if on sale would be an absolute steal. It is also available for PlayStation vita and the Apple store.

Good luck comrade and to the glory of Arstotska.


I am the original drunken mage! The filthy casual with an elite streak! Love a retro session and grew up in the era that JRPGs were at their best. I've probably played 2% of my steam library and enjoy a good rogue-like. Game-play over graphics all day long!

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