The Path

TakatoGuil again, and sadly, only very briefly, this time to talk about a game that has very recently celebrated its first birthday, The Path. This gem was released by Tale of Tales in March ’09, and remains a horrifying and confusing addition to the art game genre. Loosely based off of the childhood classic, “Little Red Riding Hood,” The Path is almost certainly a metaphor for something. Good luck figuring out what.

In fact, if you do figure out what the deal is, let me know. Without going into too much, the main purpose of this game is to pick one of six sisters to control and ignore your mission objectives of “Go directly to Grandmother’s house” and “Don’t stray off the path”. Pretty boring, isn’t it? So screw you, granny, you and the boxed wine we’re delivering. Let’s go exploring! Once you’ve strayed off the path, you quickly find yourself in a forest that seems designed by Square Enix; it loops around west and east, north and south, and nothing you can do will get you back on the path, which is obviously very disconcerting.

Well, almost nothing. Wait around long enough and you’ll encounter a Girl in White, who may or may not be symbolic of something, who will play with your avatar, comfort her, and eventually lead her somewhere interesting. Sometimes, that interesting place is the Path, which is kind of convenient if you’re missing the point of this game. As fun as the Girl in White is to interact with, she’s best left alone. We’re not after people who are going to help us.

We’re going wolf-hunting.

Each girl has her own personal wolf, from the obviously threatening (like the strange werewolf creature who seems to be directly from the story), to the seemingly harmless (a young Girl in Red). Each wolf quickly and horrifyingly breaks the girl it corresponds with, and the screen blanks out, leaving you back on the path directly in front of Grandmother’s House. And then the real horror sets in. Grandma hired Cthulu to be her interior designer.

So, what’s the point? The point is to explore. And to let the characters do things on their own. If you aren’t making a girl move, she goes off on her own, doing whatever the character feels like doing. It’s a nice concept. The graphics are mostly all right, though some models don’t move in ways you’d expect. Sound? Subtly horrifying. Gameplay? A bit too slow, but there’s enough to do to keep you distracted for a while. Surprisingly, if you get into the game, none of it matters. If you can’t get into the game, the flaws spring forth like Athena and you can never shake them away. It’s pretty divisive, though you’ll probably be able to sympathize deeply with one of the girls. I’ll give this game a 6/10. If you love it, you’ll love it. But others won’t find it all that great. To find out, try “The Path Prologue”. No story, just gameplay. If you can’t get into that, you’ll know the game isn’t for you.