Dinn Roamin’: Papers Please Dev’s New Game Has A Demo

eat a sandwich, man

This is a pleasant surprise: Lucas Pope, he of the wildly acclaimed, extremely well-observed and reliably gut-wrenching Papers, Please, has snuck out a free demo of his next game. First person sort-of-adventure Return of the Obra Dinn has a somehow both retro and hyper-modern 1-bit art style (which looks a bit like a dot matrix printer was fed green paper), and concerns a Marie Celeste-style naval mystery. It’s TBC whether this too will make one lose all faith in humanity.

I’ve not had a chance to play the demo yet, but thought you fine folks should know about it immediately. I may follow up with thoughts later on, once my other infinite writings are completed. Here’s Pope’s summary of the game, however:

In 1802, the merchant ship “Obra Dinn” set out from London for the Orient with over 200 tons of trade goods. Six months later it hadn’t met its rendezvous point at the Cape of Good Hope and was declared lost at sea.

Early this morning of October 14th, 1808, the Obra Dinn drifted into port with sails damaged and no visible crew. As insurance adjustor for the East India Company’s London Office, find means to board the ship and recover the Crew Muster Roll book for assessment.

Pope advises that the demo “is a very early playable build. There’s not much content and it hasn’t been tested.” There’s also no save function.

With all that in mind, here you go.


  1. Janichsan says:

    Wow. That graphical style works even better than I had expected.

  2. slerbal says:

    Oooh, excellent stuff. Given his pedigree thus far I was going to give it a shot whatever, but this looks very interesting indeed.

  3. Ross Angus says:

    Just played it. It’s really good, so far. Gameplay seems somewhere between The Vanishing of Ethan Carter and Gone Home. The voice work is excellent and the graphical style really evocative.

  4. Eukatheude says:

    Judging from the screenshot, I liked better the artstyle shown in that “work in progress” blog post.

  5. XhomeB says:

    Oh boy, that looks lovely. Crossing fingers the full version doesn’t end up being another walking simulator like Dear Esther or Gone Home, that would be a massive disappointment. Me likes proper gameplay with challenging puzzles.

    • demicanadian says:

      On the other hand you could get ‘classic’ apple 2 adventure game, with million of “guess what you have to click backwards to go further” situations :D

  6. ofrzeta says:

    The style reminds me of a homecomputer era game. I do not remember which one it was. Anyone?

    • XhomeB says:

      The art style seems to be heavily inspired by the games released on Macintosh Plus/SE.

  7. Shazbut says:

    I’d been casually following this but had no idea he was ready to release any of it. I thought the game bit was still missing. Excited to try this. Papers Please is a masterpiece of ludo narrative

  8. JB says:

    That really is lovely. The sound design in general is very good.

    Also, I disregarded the message about how many fates you can deduce and managed 3 crew members with minimal guesswork. I guess in theory (if you wanted to spend the time) you could brute force your way to working out the fates of everyone in the demo so far. I think I’ll wait until the game is out and play it properly, however.

  9. Shadrach says:

    This looks very promising indeed. Have to admin I didn’t manage to play a lot of Papers, Please, it was too dark for me. But a bit of detective exploration gaming with hints of the supernatural, yes please thank you very much.

  10. Alex says:

    I love what he’s got so far. The hand-grabby mechanic, the change in pace when you’re walking up stairs, the wooden boards creaking, the death pocketwatch, the visual style. It’s all very good and I’m looking forward to the finished game.

    I think it’s a bit misleading to call it a “demo” though, because it’s really just the first playable build. Going by Lucas’s posts in the dev thread at TIGForums, this is meant to give you an idea of the aesthetic, the gameplay, and the general story, but all the details and presentation is very temporary and unpolished as of yet. It was generous of him to let us check it out at such an early stage of development, and I hope people don’t misconstrue this as “basically finished, but chopped down to the first 15 minutes”.

  11. Eight Rooks says:

    Damn, that really is terrific, even at this early stage. Love, love, love the feel of the walking – the pace, the audio design, the variation for going up steps etc. Really seems to fit the atmosphere he’s going for. The arm for interacting is also beautifully done. And I’m hugely impressed with how much he’s doing with the art style – in some ways it’s every bit as impressive as Ethan Carter but with so much less… graphics? :)

    I was intrigued by the early screens but yeah, this is now firmly on my radar. Very generous of him to let people take a look this early on, and I hope it pays off for him.

  12. caff says:

    Just tried this tonight – interesting title, excellent voice acting, though I struggled with it at first. Maybe I’m just poor at games.