I first heard about the game over at Rock, Paper, Shotgun and was very much intrigued, but instead of trying the beta I decided to hold off until the full game was released. Then tonight Nerd³ posted a play-through of the first few levels and I was at the download page before the video was done. As the RPS article extolls (but which I couldn't really appreciate until I saw it in action) there's a certain appeal just in the "tangibility" of the game. Despite it being about checking forms it's actually quite engaging to play, both from the interactivity and the sense of power over people's lives. You manually take their documents and spread them on your desk as you compare names with names, numbers with numbers, and photos with faces. And then of course there's punching down that great big stamp, leaving an indelible mark of your judgment and sealing their fate one way or the other.
In addition to moral dilemmas, the tasks of your job are also working against you. Things start off straightforwardly enough, with your concerns mainly being passport photographs and expiration dates. But there are ebbs and flows in the political climate of the gameworld and each in-game day gives you new or different documents to process and details be watchful for. By several days in you'll find yourself having to check a foreign citizen's passport, entry permit, and work pass each for internal consistency and for agreement with each other. And while the forms pile up, the work day doesn't get any longer. Given that you're paid based on how many people you're able to process, there's a constant sense of urgency. But of course if you rush and get sloppy you run the risk of being fined for an oversight. And I want to clarify that in the screenshot above that discrepancy with the stamp on the entry permit wasn't automatically highlighted for the player. They had notice the fraudulent stamp themself and then manually link it to the images of the approved stamps in the in-game handbook using the "Highlight Discrepancies" feature. That gives you the option to question them about the discrepancy; in this case it's a clear-cut case of a forgery, but there are other discrepancies you can find that may have legitimate explanations.
I think the game is excellent and I can't wait for the full release. You can play the beta now by downloading it here, which lets you play up to Day 8. While most of the people are randomized, there is a distinct progression to the game, so I'd caution against replaying it too much before the final release. I personally played it twice: the first time I failed miserably a few days in and the next time I successfully made it to Day 8; despite wanting to play some more I think I'll leave it at that so that everything is still fresh when it's released. You could also complement or replace a couple play-throughs with watching Nerd³'s video; he plays up to Day 3, which is enough to give you a good idea of how the game works without showing too much of it (and of course he's also hilarious, so you should go and watch all the rest of his videos, too). And lastly, if you use Steam and would like to see Papers, Please get the "Greenlight," you can vote for it here.
Enjoy, folks, and glory to Arstotzka.