FTL is a sweet little indie game that rode industry buzz to blow past its Kickstarter goal about a year ago, then launched last fall. It's sort of a dungeon crawl in space, with bright, clean graphics and a Choose Your Own Adventure-style interface that draws players in quickly. Ship-to-ship combat is a good chunk of the game, but that involves shuttling crew members to repair damage or focus efforts on shields or whatnot, rather than aiming, firing, evading, and other twitchy business. It's fun, it's easy to learn, it's hard to win, and it's compelling enough to play through many, many times.

This is you.
  • This is you.

It's also ten bucks. That stakes out some interesting psychological territory in the space of game prices in between classic one-or-two-buck apps like Angry Birds and $60 box game events like Halo 4, and it provokes a weird discomfort in the mind of the game consumer. It's certainly not the only game in its price range—there are plenty of $10-20 games on Steam, Xbox LIVE and PlayStation Network—but it still seems to transcend the spectrum of established game pricing.

That's a good thing! It ties the price of FTL more directly to its value than to simply what everyone else charges. We may not often think "Do I want to exchange ten dollars in exchange for several hours of challenging fun?" very often, but it's a worthwhile effort now and then. When we see the same old price for apps, box games, and DLC (not to mention books, movies, porn, and music), we tend to pull the trigger without thinking. More diverse pricing may lead to more discerning purchases, and maybe to a Utopia filled with unique little experiences like FTL.

The Stranger Testing Department is Rob Lightner and Paul Hughes.