Developer: YETU GAME
Publisher: YETU GAME
Played on: PC
Release Date: September 15, 2016
Time Played (Steam): 1.9 hours
Paid: $0 (Free to play)
PRICE is a game that started out with so much promise. It caught my eye on the Steam store for two reasons: its nicely realized anime aesthetic, and its low price of free. I figured that that was more than enough reason to dive into it, and I was initially very pleased with it. The opening cinematic in particular really drew me in with its haunting vocals and dramatic instrumentation. I highly recommend that you check it out if you’re into the whole “dark and mysterious anime opening” thing. Unfortunately, that’s the only part of the game I can really recommend looking at, as I found much of the rest of it to be a tiresome, frustrating chore to play.
The game opens with the protagonist, Ivry, waking up in his sister Iva’s room with her nowhere to be found. After discovering that the door to leave is locked, Ivry has to explore the environment to find a way to escape, all while learning more about how he came to be in this predicament.
PRICE is a point-and-click adventure game, so the player’s method of interacting with the world consists of clicking on various interactable objects in the room in the hopes that either: a) Some new clue or item will be revealed, or b) An item/clue they have collected will help to advance the plot of the game.Straightforward enough, no? Well, here’s where I start to have complaints. As alluded to above, the game employs a “clue” system in addition to a traditional inventory. While the inventory items are generally single-use items that help you solve environmental puzzles, the clues are persistent and can be combined to advance the story. However, certain events will only occur once you have certain clues. For instance, you may have a clue about Ivry’s father and a clue about a stuffed bear in Iva’s room, but until you enter the clue menu and decide to combine the clues, looking in the fireplace might yield no results.
Now, you may be thinking that that last sentence sounded weird. “What could looking in the fireplace have to do with knowing about the link between a stuffed bear and a father?” you ask. Well, that’s the thing: it doesn’t have any connection, or at least it shouldn’t. But time and again the game does this. I lost count of how many times I examined a locked wardrobe to see if I could interact with it, yet it wasn’t until I obtained some clue that Ivry suddenly heard a cat inside and decided to open it! Now, I could understand if it was something like, “Oh, this wardrobe is locked. You need a key to open it. Go get the key, silly.” OH NO. The game just seems to arbitrarily decide that even though Ivry HAS A KEY TO OPEN THE WARDROBE, he can’t do so until he learns about some part of his family’s history. Because logic.
The game continually does this: blocking progression in the main story until you obtain some item or clue, then making that item or clue wholly irrelevant to the next part of the story anyway. It makes the puzzles feel at odds with the rest of the game; it’s like the developers tried to tell a narrative before realizing that they needed some way of breaking it up with gameplay. Apparently the solution was to randomly gate off content until a set of unrelated conditions is met. I just found it incredibly frustrating to spend time examining every object in the room, finally get some clue, and then have to go back and re-examine every object to see if this new revelation had made Ivry realize that there was actually a pie on the table all along.Speaking of weird logic, a number of cases of awful adventure game logic are present and accounted for. Now, granted, I’m no point-and-click game expert, not by any stretch. However, this is a game that had puzzles so obtuse that not even resorting to the age-old “use every item in your inventory on everything” trick would necessarily work. I had to resort to a walkthrough on two occasions, and on at least one occasion, my response to discovering the solution wasn’t even, “Oh, shoot, I should have noticed that,” but an outright, “ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME?!?!” Without giving away anything, let’s just say that there is a puzzle later in the game that requires you to remember information from a cutscene that occurred earlier in the game. There is no way (as near as I could tell) to re-watch this cutscene without replaying through the game. Even then, I saw no indication whatsoever that the information being presented would be important later on. So the game expected me to remember information, but gave no indication that I was expected to remember it. I’m sorry, but that’s just ridiculous.
Otherwise, the game just seems very unpolished. The English translation is questionable in a number of places, to the point where it spoiled scenes that were likely supposed to be dramatic. It’s hard to feel empathy for a character when you’re trying to figure out what they’re even saying.
The in-game audio is mind-numbingly aggravating, namely the fact that there is one track of music that loops over and over and over again. It even inexplicably played over cutscenes, so key sound effects, music notes, and character dialogue (not in English, but still) was drowned out by the game’s background music. Considering how enjoyable the opening track was, my constant battle to resist muting the game while actually playing it was a huge disappointment.The game is also hampered by a number of bugs and glitches. I experienced one hard crash while navigating through my inventory, which brought the game’s lack of an autosave function into harsh light. Just a brief tangent: If you decide to play this, SAVE OFTEN. I lost about half an hour’s worth of progress due to the sudden crash, at which point I was already frustrated enough that I considered just quitting the game then and there.
Anyway, aside from the one hard crash, I found that Alt-Tabbing out of the game during the opening cutscene (at least while in full-screen) caused the cutscene’s video to crash. The audio kept playing, and once the cutscene completed, I could still get back into the game, but it was annoying nonetheless. I’ve also heard that a number of in-game videos are not playing properly in the English version of the game, though I was not able to test that. It would certainly explain the generally lackluster story, which I felt left a number of plot threads unresolved and largely just felt very flat. This could also be down to the translation, but it was hard to care. I didn’t care about any of the characters; I just wanted the game to be over.
PRICE is an odd game to me, in that it has been receiving a huge amount of praise. At the time of writing, 95% of its 712 reviews on Steam are positive; it seems to be a pretty big hit. But for whatever reason, it’s just not working for me. People have praised it for its challenging puzzles, while I just found the puzzles to be infuriating. It’s constantly referred to as a creepy horror game, yet I barely even got a chill from its “spooky” moments (though maybe I’ve built up some immunity thanks to SOMA…). About the only thing that I really agree with people on is that the game looks pretty nice, with some well-drawn anime characters and detailed backgrounds. Unfortunately, that can only carry a game so far, and to me, the tradeoff of suffering through obtuse puzzles and irritating music for some fancy graphics is simply too high of a PRICE.