What if you had to kill to save an innocent life? Could you commit terrible crimes for a noble cause, and still come out a good person in the end? What if it was for love? Is a happy ending even possible after you've thrown away your humanity? The Price, an artsy point-and-click story by Flip-N-Tale, asks these questions... and the answers it provides might not be very happy ones.
Set in the American South during the time of slavery, the game opens with the tale of a field laborer who's fallen in love with the baron's daughter. When they're caught together, she takes a bullet defending him and he's left with no choice but to run. If he becomes one with an evil spirit and reaps three wicked souls, he can save her though the hard part isn't killing, it's staying in control. Explore three different levels, clicking the highlighted objects to progress, and solving puzzles to reach your intended victim. Will the spirit break free, or will you be able to remember why you're doing this in the first place?
The world of The Price is never a pleasant place to be, but it's gorgeous. It looks more like a painting than a game, and the environments are so rich and detailed that you can practically feel the breeze outside or choke on the dust in the mines. Each character is beautifully and uniquely animated, even the ones who don't show up for very long. The music is generally on the simpler side, but does a great job setting the mood and grounding the visuals to the setting and plot. And while the story isn't perfect (the justice the protagonist metes out should be important, but the matter is barely touched) it's still pretty good. This game is dark and miserable and bloody and tragic, and even when the protagonist has hope in thinking of his lover, it's hard to believe that things will work out for him. The sudden ending hits like a sledgehammer in a way that's horrible and perfect at the same time. There are monsters in this story, but no perfect people... yet every sympathetic character gets to speak their case, and the game is much better for it.
However, this isn't a game for everyone. The violence and slavery will alienate some players, and not everyone will agree on whether that subject matter was well-handled. The gameplay doesn't come off very strong when compared to the other elements, either. Some of the mechanics are tricky and very abruptly introduced, and the more positive ending was difficult to find-- in other words, the developer does show promise, but this is a game to play for the art and story. But if you're interested in beautiful visuals and an unsettling story with a folktale-like feel, you might want to see what happens when you pay The Price.