PRICE is a short, free-to-play indie puzzle game available on Steam. I picked it up while looking through visual novels, though it isn’t one itself. The premise is fairly basic: “The hero Ivry wakes up from a nightmare and finds himself in a weird room. To escape from fear and darkness, he has to search and explore on his own until he discovers the truth and finds his sister Iva.” To say much more about the plot would enter spoiler territory.
The game itself is really a pair of escape rooms more than anything else. The first “half” of the game, called ECIRP (see what they did there?), sees Ivry awakening in a room that he is mysteriously locked in. So you search the room for clues and tools to help him escape. In doing so, it also enables the player to begin piecing together Ivry and Iva’s pasts and begins answering the question of where is Iva. The second half is essentially the same as the first, only with a different room with different clues, and of course continuing on to what happened to the siblings.
The game is quick to play, it took me just over an hour to finish both parts. Despite the short length, the game manages to pack a full and complete, and admittedly tragic story into the game. The game play mechanics are quick and easy to pick up. It does have one minor bug where the music level keeps resetting itself to max, but otherwise it played fluidly and I didn’t notice any issues with the text. If you don’t mind mild horror aspects, it certainly is worth giving it a play through, particularly when it’s free.
Another short game I played through this week is Traum. Like PRICE, it is a free to play indie game, though with more horror elements (more blood, jump scares, etc). It’s also a point-and-click adventure style with you moving a character around in various locations and interacting with things, but with multiple settings and a bigger world. The official description is:
You’re Mike, a common man who had it all planned out. A loving wife, a house and a steady income. The American dream.
Now stuck with a dull office job and a terrible boss, family was all he got. Tensions from work were carried over to home and while not everything was full of champagne and rose petals, dreams and plans were still intact. Until that one fateful day.
Can even the best of plans be shattered by unexpected news?
The game opens with Mike waking up late at his desk one night, having fallen asleep while trying to finish a report. His nap was interrupted by his coworker who encourages him to go home. When Mike leaves the office, however, he gets hit by a car. When he wakes up in the hospital, nothing is as it seems anymore, and this psychological thriller is off and running. Mike has one goal: to get home and see his wife. As he winds his way through the messed up world he finds himself in, we learn of their past courtship, marriage, happiness, and how it all came tumbling down.
Traum has a mix of game play elements, including interacting with items, mild puzzles, and chasing after/running from other characters. Thematically and in the presentation of the protagonist, it reminded me very much of Serena, another free indie psychological horror game, but the game play itself is quite different. In both cases, though, the game takes the protagonist from relatable and almost pitiable to someone who find increasingly unlikable and almost deserving of the horrors being inflicted upon him.
Overall, I enjoyed playing Traum. Clocking in at just over an hour and a half, it’s easy to enjoy in one sitting. The horror elements are not over the top, so despite the recommendation to play with the lights off, it likely won’t really scare much. My only real disappointment with the game is despite having the appearance of branching storylines through key choices you can make in the game, the choices don’t seem to affect very much and the ending will always be the same. It would be one thing if the ending were satisfying, but it really isn’t. There is a significant lack of justice or redemption in it all that left me wanting a fuller ending. Still, for a free game, it is thought-provoking and entertaining enough that I would recommend it.