When a game cites as inspiration Papers, Please and classic Lucasarts point-and-clicks, it’s hard not to be curious, if a little cautious in your optimism. That’s exactly where Toronto-founded developer Hilltop Studios is coming from with Lil’ Guardsman – and it's come up with something pretty great.

The game starts with an interesting parenting decision by Hamish, a guardsman in the fantasy kingdom of “The Sprawl”. He has an important bet to place at the goblinball arena so, naturally, he asks his 12-year-old daughter, Lil, to cover his shift at the guard shed. That decision kicks off a series of events that run the gamut from time-travelling border control duty, to a fantasy game show, to all-out war.

Playing as Lil, the bulk of the game involves Papers, Please-inspired decision-making about the fates of customers at the guard shed, all seeking to enter the kingdom. This is definitely a more light-hearted affair than Lucas Pope’s 2013 classic, though, with Lil mostly unperturbed by the whole situation and wise-cracking right on through it. With lenient difficulty and the provision of a magical egg-timer to rewind events, the gameplay stakes are lower, too.

All the same, it’s a solid format to present the player with a long queue of characters, and that’s certainly Lil’ Guardsman’s forte. The huge cast is lovingly created with entertainingly detailed images and consistently polished voice work. Publisher Versus Evil notes there are over 100 people to meet, and the would-be Sprawl-goers seem unlimited as Lil happily rubber-stamps their destinies. Memorable encounters include a stoner wizard, a reluctantly pirate-talking pirate, and an aristocrat’s entourage dutifully grieving for her cat.

The sheer volume of art and writing is impressive, with multiple ways to weave through the game and extensive flavour text and storytelling unreeling as you navigate the possibilities. You will also shape the game world with your decisions in a few simple ways, whether that’s to destroy an entire location on the map or to get some different booze in the local tavern.

Since the game is light on puzzles and exploration, a huge amount rests on Hilltop Studios’ ability to keep a story moving and land some jokes – and having invoked the rose-tinted memories of Lucasarts, the writing is aiming high. Considering the challenge that’s been taken on, the result is impressive. Not every joke is a zinger, but there are plenty of laughs. Breaking the fourth wall has been done to death in games, but Lil’ Guardsman even comes up with a few good gags in that category, in an admirable feat of originality.

Many graphic adventures claim to recreate the Lucasarts magic of the 1990s, but in most cases that’s more of an aspiration than an achievement. Hilltop Studios, though, in its best moments, has channelled the humour of classic point-and-clicks while delivering something original. With so many fleshed-out characters to get to know through its Papers-Please-lite gameplay, there’s good reason to grant Lil’ Guardsman entry to your Switch.