Bostan, Lesrenadi, and True Glorian. To some, those names won’t mean anything, but a fan of the popular indie game Paper’s Please may be reaching for his stamp right now. Lucas Pope’s document-checking indie game was a major hit, so it’s a shame many forget that he made more games with the same kind of style. The Republia Times is perhaps the game most akin to his breakout hit, and not just because it shares the same fictional universe.
Mercy, I have a wife and kids!
You play as the editor of the titular, state-run newspaper and are informed that Republia has just fought a war against the neighboring Antegria and has now been dealing with rebel forces. Loyalty to the government is at an all-time low however, so it’s your job to edit the newspaper in a way that makes believe in the Republian state once again. To help motivate you, the powers that be have “borrowed” your family and will regularly inform you about their “treatment”.
You will receive goals to meet that must be fulfilled within a limited amount of days, requiring you to raise the loyalty to a certain level or increase your readership to a specific target. A day in The Republia Times has the screen split in two, with the left side filling up with articles and the right side being the actual newspaper. You click on the icons next to the headlines to pick their size, then drag them over to the paper to fit them in there. The bigger the article the more it will affect loyalty and the more articles you use, the more readers you get.
The game is all about deciding what you want to highlight with a big feature piece and what articles you’d rather stuff away in as tiny a corner as possible. This can be a tough process since the articles you get are randomized, forcing you to let some unsavory pieces about your country through just to fill up the paper. It’s not exactly deep gameplay and you may notice some repetition occurring, that’s a shame, though in the game’s defense: it only has about 11 in-game days that are good for a total of 30 minutes of play.
Short, powerful, and featuring a creative central mechanic. This is Lucas Pope at his best!
Story & Gameplay score: 8.5/10
Rebellion on my mind
Just like in Papers, Please there is the option to choose between working with the government or the recently-suppressed rebel forces. However, this game features far less branches for the story. You can either fail early on, or choose between two sides, all of which result in mediocre endings. It’s a bit cynical and there isn’t much to get back to.
Extras score: 3/10
No citations, at least
The game takes a ‘less is more’ approach to its presentation, again much like Papers, Please. The game is largely black & white and the playing board is easy to read, it’s always immediately clear how much stuff can fit on your newspaper, how much time you have to pick your items, and the icons are just the right size to flow well into the sometimes hectic gameplay. It even manages to sneak in some nice visual storytelling as your articles begins to display glitches.
This may sound like uncharacteristically specific criticism from me, but there is little to talk about. Keep in mind that The Republia Times was made for an 48-hour game jam and wasn’t even the only game Pope made for it, this was developed at top speed. Considering it’s such a quick game made in such a short amount of time, the presentation is definitely above expectations.
Presentation score: 7.5/10
I kind of messed up here when planning this indie month. I chose The Republia Times as an answer to Stian’s review of The Westport Independent, not realizing it was a game from a jam and so short. Even so I appreciated my time with it and found it an interesting way to spend a few minutes. If you liked Papers, Please and want something from the same, cynical mind, then give this a look.