The Path – PC
Developer: Tale of Tales
Publisher: Tale of Tales
Release Date: March 18th , 2009
Nerd Rating: 8 / 10
Reviewed by Rhutsczar
“Don’t stray from The Path…or do it…explore a world beyond the fog.”
While not everyone enjoys an artistic title, you have to admit they are interesting. Some say they may push the boundaries of our minds and others say they are complete trash. A surreal re-telling of a classic fairy tale, The Path creates new stories inside a rather familiar world. Are you ready to take the path straight to Grandma’s? Or will you stray from the path and explore? If it is the latter, take my hand and let me lead you into a world of despair…maybe we will find your own wolf along The Path.
As I mentioned above, The Path is an artistic interpretation of the classic fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood. Except instead of only one, you have your pick of six sisters of varying ages all dressed in the familiar red hood. You are not provided any information beyond their names about them, so it is up to you to uncover their story. Once you have selected a character, you are dropped into the woods along the path. Your goal…get to Grandma’s house. While you can eventually reach and enter the home willingly, you won’t be able to learn much about your chosen sister. Instead, you can explore the fog-covered woods, searching for clues and items. Who knows, you may be able to find the Wolf lurking in the distance. Let’s just say that if you encounter him, you may have a much different ending.
I want to put this out there right now, there is no end goal in place to win The Path. It is one of those games that are more about the experience, the journey if you will, instead of the end game. As even stated by developers, “the player may have to choose the losing path to have an overall much better experience.” While I questioned this during my first playthrough, I quickly discovered that they were right. I was able to complete The Path rather quickly when I just followed the path for each sister…but when I strayed from the path it changed my entire story. The story is definitely not told in a traditional sense, which makes The Path even more intriguing.
Visually, The Path is an absolute wonder to just sit back and take in. Almost every moment and scene looks like it was painted and then digitized into a wonder of beauty. Okay, I may be getting ahead of myself there, though. Tale of Tales used a custom visual engine for their work on The Path and I would say it paid off. Guess what? I’m not the only one. The Path has been nominated for a number of awards including Excellence in Visual Arts at the 2008 Independent Games Festival as well as winning Best Sound and Best Design at hdPlay International Video Game Festival in Spain.
As far as actual gameplay is concerned, The Path doesn’t have much behind the thin veil of exploration. The player moves their chosen sister with either the arrow or WASD keys, while picking items using E. Pretty traditional right? Since The Path is primarily just art and character-driven, you can have as little or as much interaction as the player as you would like. The more you choose to be involved in the game and the story, the more rewarding it will be.
While The Path is technically a horror game and has plenty of horror elements, the game isn’t just that scary on its own. Tale of Tales hired American composers Jarboe as well as the dark ambient group Amber Asylum to add their own dark twist to a haunting score. The score is definitely where The Path excels. Sure it can be calm. Sure it can be dark. But this score makes you feel uneasy…that there is a lingering stench of despair just waiting for you off this beaten path. With its score, The Path brings essentially brings the player an abstract expression of horror.
I have to admire the developers for their interesting artistic interpretation that they have created. Since they are not focused on being traditional, The Path is built upon many surrealist elements that leave many of the game details open to the player’s own opinion. This “anti-game”, if you could call it that, does a wonderful job at providing the narrative/framework and essentially giving the player the tools to create their own story…within bounds of course. What do you think happened to each one of the sisters? Did they ever make it to see their Grandma? You will have to descend into the fog to find out.
While The Path is definitely not the title for everyone, for the willing it sure is an interesting treat. While definitely not a traditional example of a game, The Path doesn’t exactly care and isn’t bound by the rules set in place by the gaming community. With a very familiar setting within the world of Little Red Riding Hood, Tale of Tales is able to artistically create their own non-traditional story…one that the player can change and interpret at their will.
As the saying goes, “Part of the game you play as the player, the rest you play in your mind.”
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