Lindsay looks at Orion Trail and Papers, Please in this week's Greenlight Special.
Welcome to the Greenlight Special.
I love that word. Greenlight. To me, it represents possibility. Hollywood began greenlighting movies decades ago, and Valve’s Steam Greenlight seems to have perfected it: putting the release – heck, even the fate – of a game into the hands of the community. What you get are a multitude of community-supported adventures, creating diversity and driving innovation forward so what we aren’t left with as the only forms of entertainment are large, cookie-cutter carbon copies of the same buggy AAA-titles. Kinda makes you wish Hollywood would do a “Steam”.
Each week, I’ll dive into that seemingly endless pool found on Steam Greenlight, and bring you the best two games I can find before that looming deadline of Tuesday shows up demanding payment. Without any further ado…
The first game on our Greenlit Game list is Orion Trail, by Schell Games. From the Steam page: “Orion Trail is a single player choose-your-own-space-adventure where you must rely on your wits, your officers and your shit to cross the deadly Orion Trail.”
In the game, you have four resources to manage (Food, Fuel, Crew and Hull), and you must draft equipment, captain and crew from a small pools before every time you play. Each officer offers different stats, and all decisions in the game are influenced by these stats. There are encounters, like the Warp Weasels, Black Holes and an Alien Science Vessel. Chose from three options, and roll the dice to see if you come out of the encounter with resources you need.
The initial draw for me was the art style. I like retro arcade games. They’re slightly nostalgic, and, on a purely aesthetic level, I enjoy good pixel art. Plus, I absolutely love space, so I have some biases. It’s got a FTL vibe, and there’s a tongue and cheek sense of humor to it that keeps it interesting. Also, to me, it brings to mind both Organ Trail and Oregon Trail. The best part? The writing is phenomenal, as there’s a great deal of sci-fi pop culture references, which tickled me. “Hail them and clear your throat. Loudly.” I’m a huge fan of comedic writing, and I love when it pops up in a video game.
The biggest complaint I have is the fact that the demo is broken, as you cannot finish the mission you select. For a gamer, that’s supremely unsatisfying. Additionally, there’s no release date. This game has a lot of potential to be amusing for a lot of us space nerds out there. It’s simply too bad we can’t get more right now.
Moving on, we have this week’s Released Game: Papers, Please. This game was released August 8, 2013 for Windows and OS X, by Lucas Pope, formerly of Naughty Dog. It’s won the Seumas McNally Grand Prize in both “Excellence in Narrative” and “Excellence in Design” at the Independent Games Festival awards, and it won “Best Simulation Game” at the 2014 BAFTA Video Games Awards. Oh, and it’s sold 500,000 copies since BAFTA.
So, what is Papers, Please? It’s a single player puzzle game. You play as an immigration officer in Arstotzka, deciding whom to allow or deny entrance into the dystopian state during the winter of 1982. It’s your job to inspect would-be entrants’ documents, constantly checking the documents against an ever-changing set of criteria, the purpose of which is to weed out the undesirables like smugglers (Han, is that you?) and criminals. If any discrepancies are found, you get to interrogate, fingerprint, body-scan and detain these people.
Once all the evidence has been sifted through, you have to approve or deny them entry into Arstotzka. If you miss a discrepancy, you get a citation, and eventually, money is docked from your end-of-day pay. You have a wife, son, mother-in-law, uncle, rent, food, medicine and heat to maintain with your meager income. And goodness, this game is bleak. But, hey, I got an award for Sufficience. Glory!
Now, I have to tell you why I chose this game as my Released Game. My friend Keegan has insisted for weeks, nay, months, that I play this game. If her tastes can be trusted, then I had to check it out (although there was that brief dalliance with Dino D-Day we won’t mention…). It came out awhile ago, but I feel like it was an appropriate game to start this column with because it, too, has a retro-arcade feel like Orion Trail.
Before I played too much, the story grabbed me in a great way because for some sick reason, dystopian stories pull me. If you’re into dystopian literature like “1984” or “Brave New World”, then I highly recommend this game. Bonus extra: any kind of bad Russian-sounding accent I get to read things in is fun.
The daily bulletins keep things interesting and always moving forward. I love burning up the bribe money, and doing a body-scan is hilarious. “You’re a woman?” Throughout your day to day activities, your check point is prone to terrorist attacks, smugglers, secret groups trying to take down Arstotzka, a shit-ton of Pink Vice slips… NO I DON’T WANT TO SEE YOUR PINK VICE. I don’t even know what that means. All at once, it’s weirdly obsessive. Even as I write this, I kind of want to just fudge the ending of this article and go play. There goes my night. Ugh. However, if you’re a person with really poor attention to detail, then you may find this game frustrating at times. I certainly did. It’s why I was awful at HR. I’d get citations even though I was certain I had checked everything. Because of the high level of detail orientation needed, replayability is so-so. Unless you like to torture yourself.
TL;DR? On Greenlight is Orion Trail. Pros include a great story, and really great comedic writing. Yet it has one of the of the biggest cons of all, which is namely no release date. Also, the demo is buggy. As for the Released game, we have Papers, Please. Moving story, amusing dialogue, challenging gameplay and, of course, Glory to Arstotzka. For people who lack any attention to detail, this may not be your cup of tea. I’d suggest trying it to find out.
If you have any suggestions on which games I should review for the Greenlight Special, feel free to contact me via Twitter @lindsaygeektr0n.
Lindsay “amoril” Geektron, Brand Ambassador