Somewhere, somewhen, in 80s, on alternative Earth, there is spot on planet with bunch of fictional countries. Soviet-sque, with planned economy, poor, totalitarian, miserable for people and miserable itself.
Mail arrives. Traditional one, of course. You won October Labor Lottery. You get new job (presumably slightly less shitty than old one) and new apartment. And that job is inspecting people on border checkpoint.
What you actually do? Every day you arrive on checkpoint, read documents, rules (they change often, enjoy ever-growing bureaucracy) and news. When you want to start day, you call people via megaphone.
Clock start ticking and you better process as many people as possible. Without mistakes or letting in someone that shouldn’t be, of course. At end of day you tally your income and spending, like food for your family or heating (winter is coming). Oh, did I mention you are dirt poor?
First day is simple, no dirty foreigners whatsoever. Only Arstotzkans. Easy peasy, you can see country by cover alone. Later not only you have to let in other nationalities, but amount of required documents grow. You have to compare more information and point out inconsistencies. That takes time and you barely get by as is.
And there lies miracle of this game. How the hell one can make interesting game where you are inspector that checks passports and other documents?
Game has interesting story with choices that will greatly affect ending of game – from accepting (or not) bribes to, well, I won’t spoil. You meet multitude of people with their own life and you get quick insight into it at that short moment of time on border crossing – these all little comments, dialogues and complaints. And finally oppressive (both literally and figuratively) atmosphere, general grayness, drabness and hopelessness of people all but imprisoned in authoritarian system.
It resonated deeply with me – my first years of life were in such country. While I don’t remember much, I do remember that atmosphere.
That game will never win any graphics, sound or special effects awards. It won other awards, though. Play it.
Glory to Arstotzka