The Path – The Verdict
The Path is a beautifully created imagining of the classic Little Red Riding Hood story that we heard as children. You take the role of one of six very different young sisters and you are told to follow the path to grandma’s house and stay on it. Of course you can simply follow the path to grandma’s house, but the real adventure lies in what you see off the beaten track.
The first two times I played I didn’t really achieve anything, the first time I seemed to find myself stuck on a repeating screen of what can only be described as wall paper, the only options were ‘Skip’ or ‘Continue’. I was already a bit freaked out from simply walking in the forest thanks to fantastic atmosphere that the game creates. Being faced with this strange event I hastily quit the game.
The second playthrough was much simpler; I followed the path to the house and entered. While nothing happened that time, I was unsettled. The changing visual style as I neared the house creates a sense of impending doom and danger. The house itself maintained these vibes, excellently aided by the moving music in the background. Ultimately I was presented with a report card informing me that I had failed and achieved a measly ‘D’ grade. You are presented with this card whenever you complete the game with one of the sisters and whilst it lets you know what you did in the forest, it feels a bit unexplained. But that is just part of the charm of the game.
The report card is a strange approach, but one that works. It lets the player know that simply following the path is not what the game, if you can call it a game, is all about. The Path is about exploring the forest that is full of a variety of very mysterious events and visions. Sometimes they can be really quite unsettling, once such instance with Ruby in particular sticks in my mind. Ruby is 15 and wears a leg brace, she has a very gothic appearance and her written commentary on what happens to her show a girl with a very dark view of the world. However when I returned with the youngest sister, Robin, the events played out entirely differently in the same scene as the one that got to me as Ruby. The variation in stories that emerge through the different characters is vast and shows The Path to be a very fulfilling game if you invest the time to explore it all.
This is a game which won’t appeal to everyone; it is very slow paced and artistic. There is no action of any meaningful kind, indeed everything that occurs outside of grandma’s house will only happen once you let go. You may be the one that direct one of these girls to an item or place, but once there you have to let go for everything to unravel.
Really what The Path does is provide us with something new; there aren’t many games which are like this. Steve has said that he could write an essay about it, and I agree with him. The Path poses many intriguing questions about the division between art and game, it is also a horror game of the finest degree, it doesn’t have any shocking scare moments. Rather, it unsettles and unnerves you in many ways. I highly recommend you check out this game, it is on Steam for under £8 and is worth every penny.
An artful masterpiece that everyone should play.
8 thoughts on “The Path – The Verdict”
Belgian game companies ftw!
“This is a game which won
ZIGS, I think the medium is digital interactive media. If we can have ‘video’games then we can have ‘video’art. Three-dimensional digital environments are used for a variety of purposes: education, communication, scientific research etc. Just because we can use engines to build games and we can build engines specifically for games does not make the medium exclusively for games.
Aside to that, I can think of many valid reasons why The Path could be legitimately labelled as a game. I don’t think that is the primary purpose of it, but just because it doesn’t conform to your idea of a game doesn’t make it not a game. Personally it ticked all the boxes that I use as criteria for a game, boxes that most mainstream games fail to tick for me (and I am a hardcore gamer for twenty years).
If anything, The Path resurrects many ideas abandoned by the gaming industry. As a mature gamer I am thankful that something different (yet so familiar) has come out. I am also buoyed that many of those who appreciate The Path are a lot younger than me, people the gaming industry have written off as one-dimensional and of a low intelligence. There is hope for ‘gaming’ yet!
ZIGS – The Path isn’t someting that is the kind of game some/a lot of people would enjoy. However I think that it is an important game that people should play as it poses a lot of questions as to what games have to be. But that is a topic which someone could write at greath length on.
I think deadrockstar has hit the nail on the head though, do can’t videogames be more than just a game?
I also agree with him that The Path is a game, though it can be debated as there isn’t much gameplay in the usual sense of the word in there.
I tried to like The Path. I really did. I wanted to like it. Nontheless, my experiences with it were not positive.
I feel as though the only reason anyone would rate the game highly is because the game dares you to. It pretentiously exudes, “Look at me! I’m different. I reject the normal concepts you expect in a game. I use the word ‘short’ in my description. If you don’t like me, you’re ignorant.”
Further, the game would be a lot more likable if it gave you any kind of back story to the characters, or any idea as to why events happen. I can quite happily take reversing the typical goal of a game – die instead of live – but The Path’s complete lack of coherence leaves me feeling disconnected, and in a game where presumably you’re supposed to build up some form of rapport with the girl you’re playing, this makes playing it pointless. It would be like creating a capture-the-flag game with the flags in unreachable positions: sure, you have the basic features required, but it isn’t fun, and you’ll never get any satisfaction from it, just frustration.
The game is blighted by a foul control system as well; anyone that finds joy in controlling identikit Red Riding Hoods at painfully slow walking pace and interacting with the environment by not interacting with the game will love The Path, but I’m going to postulate those same people enjoy the finer points of drying paint.
To call The Path a game is analogous to calling a 2 minute “short” between programs on TV a feature film. It’s not a game. It’s not games-as-art. It’s muzak. It’s the demo software you see running on display computers in Dixons or PC World.
Suffice to say, I’m completely at odds with your review and conclusions. I just can’t help but feel that you’ve been taken in by the pompousness of The Path.
@Laukei – In regards to your comment about rating the game highly because it dares you to, I must disagree. I went into the game blind, I vaguely remembered reading about it on Rock, Paper, Shotgun and thought I would give it a go. It was only on my third play through (first time I think I hit a bug, second I just went straight to the house) that I fully realised what the game was like, and I thought it was great.
You can learn the story behind the characters simply by playing the game, as you go through and see their comments on what they experience you are learning about their character and what they think.
I personally found the control system very refreshing, it was what made The Path what it is. You notice that if you run the screen becomes covered in wolf prints and blood and the noises become extremely freaky. The speed and having to stop controlling the girls is what makes The Path so good.
It’s games as art, its not a game at all, it is a game etc. debates are pointless in the grand scheme of things. The Path is released as something you pay for and play. Therefore it is a game. It just takes our usual perceptions of what a game is and alters them.
I will agree that there is a degree of pompousness with The Path, but I think it is a remarkable game.
All said, I can understand why you think what you do about The Path, but I don’t see it the same way as yourself.