The Path
Gameplay 9
Graphics 8
Sound 10

The Path is the very definition of a game that people either love to bits or completely hate. Since many players simple miss the point, or end up disappointed because the experience doesn’t conform to what they expect from a game, its hard to recommend The Path to the average gamer. However, if you can handle something new and unique, The Path will blow your mind.

Gameplay: Not your typical kind of game, but don’t let this deter you from a unique playing experience.

Graphics: The graphics have an intentional Playstation 2 style to them.

Sound: Catchy, creepy and memorable in equal measures

Summary 9.0 Outstanding
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Summary 0.0 Terrible

The Path

Developer: Tale of Tales | Publisher: Tale of Tales | Release Date: 2009 | Genre: Indie / Adventure | Website: Official Website | Purchase: Steam / itch.io

I‘ve heard a lot about The Path by Tale of Tales, but the fact that nobody could agree whether it was a game or art deterred me from purchasing it. However, the whole horror/artistic take on the story of Little Red Riding Hood sounded very intriguing, so when the game won two awards and went on sale I decided that I have no more excuses not to try it.

The Path opens with one of six girls (your pick) being sent to her grandmother’s house in the woods. You are given very clear instructions to stay on the path and not stray into the woods. So happily following the path and doing my best to ignore the very tempting woods that flanked me, I soon arrived at Grandma’s house… and was told I failed. Years of playing games have left me conditioned to follow on-screen instructions to the letter, with failure to do so usually resulting in something bad happening. The Path turned this whole notion on its head and as I continued playing I found that this wasn’t the only gaming tradition that it gleefully ignores.

The Path is often described as a “horror” game and since one of my favorite franchises is the Silent Hill series (while it was still in Japanese hands) I had all kinds of preconceived notions about what this game would have to offer. My first steps into the woods were very tentative and fraud will all kinds of visions of things jumping out and devouring me. I tried to keep the path in sight so I won’t get lost but after spotting some shiny flowers to collect I was soon lured deep into the woods and unable to find my way back to the path. Trying to run yielded very disturbing results as my view skewed and darkened to the point where navigation was impossible. Stopping brought everything back to normal, but the woods had taken on a very creepy and menacing atmosphere, so I nearly jumped out of my skin when a person dressed in white darted into my field of view. It turned out to be nothing more than a young girl who seemed harmless, so I followed her around and discovered a few interesting sights. Trying to interact with the girl caused her to take my hand and lead me back to the path and counting myself very fortunate to have survived, I headed straight back to grandma’s house. Only to be told once again that I have failed. It seemed that the only way to “succeed” was to do what I feared most and was trying to avoid, actually encounter a wolf. Picking a new girl I headed back into the woods for another adventure. I have since made many trips into the woods with all of the girls and encountered all their wolves and memories, but the first excursion still stands out as the most memorable.

While most reviews seem to struggle more with trying to classify the game and hammer it into a definition (like game or art) I actually find it harder to say something about the game without spoiling the experience. In the end that is what The Path is, an experience, and one that you should enter without the taint of someone else’s experience. To call this game boring or compare it to something else would do it a great disservice, but the sad fact is that a lot of people raised on a steady diet of first person shooters won’t enjoy this game. If you are the type of person that rushes through a game just to see the ending cut-scene then this is not for you. If you demand that your every action in a game should resulting on some instant gratification like points, items and a pat on the back then don’t experience The Path. If you insist that a game spells out everything for you, preferably in HD and surround sound then rather go watch a movie. Those of you who are left (and hopefully its not as few as I am dreading) you will find The Path to be a breath of fresh air in a market of copy cat clones and soulless sequels.

While the visuals and story of The Path are very symbolic and open to interpretation, the gameplay is actually very straightforward. Each girl can explore the woods and discover items of significance that will add “memories” to their basket and alter the interior appearance of grandma’s house. Unlike the third person segments in the woods, once you enter the house you’ll experience everything in first person and, without wanting to spoil anything, your first few trips through the house will probably freak you out. With no control other than walking forward along a set path, these sections are probably what earned the game its horror label. What does it all mean? Well that you will have to discover for yourself.

The graphics in The Path aren’t the best I’ve ever seen (this is a small Indie game after all) but they definitely have a charm of their own. Weird overlays and filters will constantly flit across your screen, making for a dreamlike experience. The girls personalities are all expertly captured in their look and animations with only the clipping and text obscured by background details putting a damper on proceedings. Overall the games visuals have a very PS2 look and feel to them, but the people who might complain bitterly about things like this are definitely not the target market. The woods tile endlessly with only a small map discreetly popping up after certain distances traveled to show you just how lost you really are. The more you play and complete it, the more the game opens up, so don’t be discouraged by getting lost and rather savor the experience.

The controls once again shows The Path thumbing its nose at convention and after playing games with more buttons than I have fingers its refreshing to be able to play using only the mouse. Keyboards and gamepads are also catered for, but with no complex inventory management, puzzles to solve or monsters to slay, all you need is your trusty old mouse. Interacting with objects requires you to relinquish control and let your character take over, which is a far cry from most modern games that requires fierce button mashing and a series of quick-time events to accomplish anything. Controls can feel a bit stiff and turning the girls are like steering a truck, but since the game is so slow paced it hardly matters. Most objects you discover simply displays a stream of thoughts in the form of a short verse that will lend some insight into your chosen girls psyche. As for the wolf encounters, well those I’ll leave up to you experience for yourself. The aftermath of these encounters sees your character slowly shuffling along a path towards grandmothers house in the rain, which some people call tedious and boring. I actually found it a good time to reflect on the encounter and was often jarred out of my reverie by the girl entering the house.

The audio deserves a special mention with some very memorable ambient effects and a soundtrack composed by artists Jarboe along with Kris Force. The end result is a haunting mix of sounds that will stay with you long after the game has ended. There is no speech but the game doesn’t need it. The dream like atmosphere is enough to draw you in and poor voice acting or voices that didn’t match up to your interpretation of the characters would just have marred the experience.

The Path is very much a Love/Hate experience and you are unlikely to see any middle ground in the arguments for and against it. All I can say is that my own experience with the game was very though provoking and engaging. So much so that I am still playing it after close to six hours of playtime. Someone has to collect all those pretty flowers that litter the woods after all!

*Review originally published October 2010 based on The Path version 1.10.

System Requirements

  • Operating System: Microsoft® Windows® XP/Vista
  • Processor: 2 Ghz
  • Memory: 1 GB RAM
  • Hard Disk Space: 500 MB
  • Video Card: Recent Geforce® or Radeon® x6xxx 256 MB (no integrated graphics)
  • Sound Card: Any Sound Card
  • DirectX® Version: DirectX® 9.0c
  • Operating System: Mac OS X 10.8
  • Processor: 2 Ghz
  • Memory: 1 GB RAM
  • Hard Disk Space: 500 MB
  • Video Card: Recent Geforce® or Radeon® x6xxx 256 MB (no integrated graphics)
  • Sound Card: Any Sound Card

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