The Path PC Review
The Path is horror-survival title by Tale of Tales, made by a small team, the members of which can be counted on both hands. It is inspired by the original tales of Red Riding Hood. All of The Path is divided into three parts. The developers call them “chapters”, and this is perhaps more suitable given the game’s narrative focus.
The first chapter takes place in the house, which is actually a contemporary apartment. The six girls occupying the apartment are available as playable characters (along with one bonus character should you complete the game with all six). Upon selecting a girl, you are immediately deposited at the end of a concrete road, which terminates abruptly into a dirt trail. The surrounding forests seem to be teaming with life, bright and sunny. That is, until you enter them.
Straying from the path is explicitly frowned upon, according to the giant text that opens the game. This will no doubt result in some players driving straight on to Grandmother’s house, as I first did. This is actually not the intention of the developers, however. They want you to stray, and violate the giant words on the screen.
In fact, nearly everything in the game goes unsaid. As you can imagine, this leads to a great deal of confusion. The disorientation is tolerable, however, and much of it is likely intentional. Less intentional would be the problems like AI pathfinding and geometry collision. There is a mysterious nymph that leads you back to the path if you stay in one place too long. At one point, I turned the camera and saw her running around a tree at superhuman speed. I don’t think this was supposed to happen, but with The Path, you never really know. Either way, it succeeded in scaring the hell out of me.
Navigating the path (or more accurately, the woods) is where you’ll spend the majority of your gameplay time. This is considered the second chapter of each gameplay session. Collecting little golden flowers results in an “attraction” location being unveiled on the edges of the screen; just follow it to explore whatever it is that awaits there. These can vary, as they will take the form of anything from a bathtub to a playground. The general idea is that each attraction is centered on each girl’s distinctive desires, which causes one to wonder if perhaps they are merely hallucinations or dreams – or if the entire game is supposed to be some kind of mind-boggling metaphor.
This also means that you might be motivated to explore The Path with each girl, to see how they interpret things and what they ultimately pursue. I think. The Path is not really a game in the usual sense, as it intentionally leaves a great deal of things subject to personal interpretation. The shift in atmosphere, random imagery, and creepy music might be unsettling during your first playthrough, but by the time you’re on the third girl, you realize everything is basically the same.
Since nothing can actually threaten you or your progress through the game, there is little to fear, so you’re more inclined to explore out of personal interest and morbid curiosity. Once you locate the wolf (which is also metaphorical, it seems), you’ll be transported to Grandmother’s house, the third and final chapter. Upon entering, you’ll simply click mindlessly to find your way through some bizarre rooms until something happens, which I shall not be spoiling here.
As far as indie games go, The Path is a fairly attractive offering. The fog and lighting serve to generate an ethereal sense of surrealism, while the stylized characters reinforce the unique quality of being in a sort of fable. Sounds are unsurprisingly chilling, if a bit arbitrary. The first time you hear the creaking of metal or ragged breathing of a woman in the forest, you might panic and wonder if you’re in some digital recreation of The Blair Witch Project. Most of it seems meaningless, although some specific musical elements will kick in as you approach significant locations. The girls’ thoughts are all displayed in text, which can be tricky to read in front of brightly illuminated scenery. Their speech is limited, so I wouldn’t think it too difficult to add a few interesting voice-overs, but we can always chalk it up to “artistic design”.
In the end, The Path still has you wandering aimlessly through a forest, with random events being your only real motivation to travel from one point to the next. Selecting whether you play as the depressed emo girl or the teenage slut might add some replayability, but only if you enjoy the game’s generally sluggish and strange presentation. If it sounds like your cup of tea, you need only shell out ten dollars to walk The Path.