Mento's May Mastery Finale/Comic Commish: Papers, Please

Like the great nation of Arstotzka, I've learned how to be economical with my limited resources. For that reason, today is both the final day of Mento's May Mastery and this month's Comic Commish. I originally acquired everyone's favorite border patrol simulator Papers, Please (developed by 3909 LLC in 2013) in one of the site's frequent Steamgifts giveaways, which still technically counts as a gift. A gift that was perhaps less "heartfelt" and more "determined by an automatic lottery monitored by a cold, unfeeling computer program", but just as appreciated all the same.

Before we get any deeper into the game - and yes, it will be in the traditional Comic Commish screenshot LP format followed by a one-of-a-kind MS Paint comic - I want to wind up this feature officially. It's been an interesting May, yet although we've seen a few noteworthy releases it feels more like everyone's gearing up for E3. Let's not forget, however, that we saw possible GOTY Witcher 3 this month, and the hiring of a new Giant Bomb East staff member (though technically he doesn't start until June 1st). I've been a little too engrossed in getting this daily series to notice much else happening. I think my country had a general election? Who knows.

I think I've discussed my June plans in enough detail already, but I won't be starting my Atari ST retrospective until a few days into the month. I need to recover from the daily grind, my beloved peeps, and that means dropping off and doing some resting of the ol' literary muscles. Maybe also play a damn console game, it's been long enough. I am super stoked about showing off some games from my youth, though, to an audience largely incognizant of the Atari ST and its library. That said, many of the games I intend to show might look familiar regardless. I especially want to focus on how weird some of the ST's Arcade conversions are, and how much better games look compared to their NES/C64 equivalent. But all in good time.

April: Papers, Please

Welcome to Papers, Please. This logo slowly marched up the screen, like the indefatigable march of Arstotzka and its hardy citizenry.
Welcome to Papers, Please. This logo slowly marched up the screen, like the indefatigable march of Arstotzka and its hardy citizenry.
Glory to Arstotzka.
Glory to Arstotzka.
I'm Arstotzka's newest border guard, the last line of defense between illegal immigrants and my fair nation, filled as it is with root vegetables and communism. Truly, a most desirable place for these queueing reprobates.
I'm Arstotzka's newest border guard, the last line of defense between illegal immigrants and my fair nation, filled as it is with root vegetables and communism. Truly, a most desirable place for these queueing reprobates.
I had to turn away the nice lady from Republia as we do not currently allow non-natives within our borders. Arstotzka is for Arstotzkans, you foreign harridan.
I had to turn away the nice lady from Republia as we do not currently allow non-natives within our borders. Arstotzka is for Arstotzkans, you foreign harridan.
After a busy day of bureaucracy, I return home to spend what little I have earned on heating the tiny government-issued apartment and feeding my family. Soon it will be one or the other. Arstotzka will provide.
After a busy day of bureaucracy, I return home to spend what little I have earned on heating the tiny government-issued apartment and feeding my family. Soon it will be one or the other. Arstotzka will provide.
Letting people through who have something wrong with their details results in a citation, meaning you lose some money and start looking like an incompetent fool. Arstotzka demands better.
Letting people through who have something wrong with their details results in a citation, meaning you lose some money and start looking like an incompetent fool. Arstotzka demands better.
Now that we have to insist on entry permits for foreigners, a new button appears: the idea is to highlight discrepancies and interrogate the visitor. More than likely, he'll have nothing to say for themselves.
Now that we have to insist on entry permits for foreigners, a new button appears: the idea is to highlight discrepancies and interrogate the visitor. More than likely, he'll have nothing to say for themselves.
Some idiots don't even remember to bring their passports. Pfeh. Is insult to intelligence of border patrol clerk.
Some idiots don't even remember to bring their passports. Pfeh. Is insult to intelligence of border patrol clerk.
Fairly soon we get our first terrorist attack, forcing us to bump up security and add more steps to the ingress process. Of course, that means more work for me ensuring everything's on the level.
Fairly soon we get our first terrorist attack, forcing us to bump up security and add more steps to the ingress process. Of course, that means more work for me ensuring everything's on the level.
Hey, our little corner of the world made the papers.
Hey, our little corner of the world made the papers.
I've been getting these letters every day, and it adds more and more variables to keep an eye on, while still working quickly to ensure my family doesn't starve or freeze to death. Fortunately, all my Cook, Serve, Delicious! training has paid off.
I've been getting these letters every day, and it adds more and more variables to keep an eye on, while still working quickly to ensure my family doesn't starve or freeze to death. Fortunately, all my Cook, Serve, Delicious! training has paid off.
One of the things you have to scrutinize is the location these people claim to hail from. You have a list of issuing cities per nearby country, and if the passport doesn't come from one of them...
One of the things you have to scrutinize is the location these people claim to hail from. You have a list of issuing cities per nearby country, and if the passport doesn't come from one of them...
This is Jorji. He's the closest thing this game has to levity. His flattery will get him nowhere!
This is Jorji. He's the closest thing this game has to levity. His flattery will get him nowhere!
So now my dumb sick kid is demanding medicine. I spoil that son of mine.
So now my dumb sick kid is demanding medicine. I spoil that son of mine.
Yeah right. What do I look like, an Republian? Next.
Yeah right. What do I look like, an Republian? Next.
Oh what fresh nonsense have you brought for me today Jorji, That's not a valid passport, you have no entry permit, there's no such country as Cobrastan and... this appears to be printed on some sort of cracker.
Oh what fresh nonsense have you brought for me today Jorji, That's not a valid passport, you have no entry permit, there's no such country as Cobrastan and... this appears to be printed on some sort of cracker.
Leave the crude MS Paint depictions to me, pal.
Leave the crude MS Paint depictions to me, pal.
Topical. And oddly emphasized here.
Topical. And oddly emphasized here.
Like his real-life equivalent Pistorius, this guy doesn't have a leg to stand on. Bake him away, toys.
Like his real-life equivalent Pistorius, this guy doesn't have a leg to stand on. Bake him away, toys.
I'm tempted to prevent access to anyone who hates on my beloved Arstotzka, but my dumb kid had turned purple this morning. Don't make me regret this, pink coat.
I'm tempted to prevent access to anyone who hates on my beloved Arstotzka, but my dumb kid had turned purple this morning. Don't make me regret this, pink coat.
Here's the first true moral dilemma in the game. This guy checks out perfectly.
Here's the first true moral dilemma in the game. This guy checks out perfectly.
However, his wife is missing a permit. Do I let her through to join her husband, or stick to my principles?
However, his wife is missing a permit. Do I let her through to join her husband, or stick to my principles?
This one... well, there's less of a moral imperative to let her through. But then, what is passport, truly?
This one... well, there's less of a moral imperative to let her through. But then, what is passport, truly?
The game offers me an upgrade here, allowing me to choose to make the inspection mode faster (which will net me more cash in the long run by expediting that process slightly) or let my dumb kid die. I shouldn't have let my wife drink so much turnip vodka while she was pregnant.
The game offers me an upgrade here, allowing me to choose to make the inspection mode faster (which will net me more cash in the long run by expediting that process slightly) or let my dumb kid die. I shouldn't have let my wife drink so much turnip vodka while she was pregnant.

Anyway, that's the end of the first five days and about as much as I can bear right now. Needless to say the game can be quite harrowing, though the passport-checking is actually kind of addictive too, in an obsessive pedantic way. Every time you let someone through there's that slight moment of trepidation where you wait to see if the Arstotzkan government writes you up a citation for being a dumbass. Every successful applicant means money in the bank, so you literally can't afford to let too many mistakes happen (not to mention that they'll start charging you penalties you can't possibly afford).

The game has a real barebones visual design to it that works perfectly with the gritty Eastern European Soviet Bloc aesthetic the game is going for. Despite the image being a little too wide and colorful to work, it almost feels like you could play this game on the tiny monitor of some ex-Soviet Electronika 60 computer, of the sort Alexey Pajitnov programmed the original Tetris on. This visual design is most strongly apparent in the basic computer fonts - designed to minimize space - that the game employs for its in-game documentation that can also be found in countless MS-DOS games (like my dear favorite Master of Magic, among others).

It's easy to see why this game impressed a lot of people. It takes the Morton's fork storytelling of The Banner Saga, which I've raved on about enough by now, and a very addictive mini-game of sorts where you're hunting for anything wrong on a person's passport: it's easy to feel rushed and push someone through without being fully secure in the knowledge that you didn't mess up. Spending time checking all angles simply leads to having less money on the day's paycheck, so at some point you just have to say "fuck it" and go with your gut.

Anyway, I suspect I'll keep on playing this in spurts, along with Cook, Serve, Delicious!. The two are actually very similar in terms of the skill requirements, where processing items as quickly and as accurately as you can is the key to victory. That just leaves the MS Paint comic I created to commemorate this gift and its kindly donor, and my thanks to the Giant Bomb Giveaway Group for letting me win something:

No Caption Provided
Day 01: I Have No Mouth, and I Must ScreamDay 11: MiasmataDay 21: Magrunner: Dark Pulse
Day 02: I Have No Mouth, and I Must ScreamDay 12: BotaniculaDay 22: Magrunner: Dark Pulse
Day 03: I Have No Mouth, and I Must ScreamDay 13: BotaniculaDay 23: The Nightmare Cooperative & Lilly Looking Through
Day 04: Life of PixelDay 14: Shantae: Risky's RevengeDay 24: Cook, Serve, Delicious!
Day 05: Life of PixelDay 15: Bit Dungeon IIDay 25: Dreamfall: The Longest Journey
Day 06: SPAZDay 16: Stick it to the Man!Day 26: Dreamfall: The Longest Journey
Day 07: SPAZDay 17: NaissanceEDay 27: Dreamfall: The Longest Journey
Day 08: NightSkyDay 18: The SwapperDay 28: The Banner Saga
Day 09: The RoomDay 19: ClaireDay 29: The Banner Saga
Day 10: Ultionus: A Tale of Petty RevengeDay 20: DokuroDay 30: The Banner Saga
Finale: Papers, Please
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