1001 Videogames I must play before I die!
No.0027 The Path
The Path is a weird one. Its certainly a game that can really only be described as an "Art Game". There isn't much to be done in it and for the most part you are simply finding things in the environment, being told or shown something about that area or item and then moving on. The game is a dark retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, though the wolf in this version seems to be far more abstract.
To begin with you are asked to pick one of five Little Red Riding Hood's. Scarlet, Carmen, Ruby, Rose, Ginger or Robin. Their ages vary from Scarlet in her late teens or maybe early twenties down to Robin who could be no more then five or six. You pick a girl and she heads off to Grandma's house. You'll find yourself on a path through the forest and you are told to stay on that path. If you actually do this you fail, instead once you head far enough off the path it will disappear and you will be surrounded by dense trees and fog. As you wonder around about you will often see a little girl dressed in white. She seems to just be playing in the forest and will often guide you to interesting objects if you follow her. However she runs everywhere, and while you can run yourself when you do the music swells, the screen darkens and the camera shifts up and further away from as if its trying to bring into shot something that is chasing you. It's a genuinely creepy affect that keeps the player moving slowly for the most part.
The girl you choose seems to have some affect on the little girl in white as well. When I played as Robin, the youngest, she was very playful and would actively find me and lead to new areas. When I played as Ruby (above) she would hide behind trees and peek out at her, and Ruby would laugh at her from time to time. It's hard to tell how much of this is deliberate game design or if it is me post-rationalising as this really is a game where you are expected to tell yourself what is going on. If you don't come across the Wolf you will eventually happen upon Grandma's house and here the game gets decidedly creepy.Grandma's house is different depending on the items you have found in the forest, the special areas you found for that girl and whether or not you found your girls wolf. All the girls have their wolf to meet and it is different for each one. I found the wolf with the three girls I've played as so far but I will only talk about Ruby's so as not to reveal too much if you want to try the game out for yourself. Ruby seems the be the emo poet of the sisters, looking at everything with weird disdain. She has a leg brace on which might partially explain her dower outlook on the world and she seems to be obsessed with isolation, death and decay.
The three special areas for Ruby were this abandoned car, a ruined house that was being used as a firing range by someone and a scarecrow. Each time you find an area specific to your girl she will say something like in the image above. When Ruby found the scarecrow she talked about how she wished she had a scarecrow to keep other people away, then stole his pumpkin head. After that I spotted the girl in white again and followed here to an old playground. She talked about how she preferred rust to paint and then I noticed I wasn't alone.
I had met Ruby's wolf. A man, obviously older the Ruby but still young, was wondering around the playground and eventually sat down on a bench. I sat down next to him. He lent back and pulled out a cigarette. Ruby sat uncomfortable next to him as he eyed her up before offering her one. It was a scene that was depressingly reminiscent of when I went out as a teenager. When I was about 14 I started going out drinking with friends and we usually ended up in parks or other open public spaces. Places where if the cops showed up we had plenty of time to see them coming. On a few occasions it also attracted older guys, real dirt bags who had seen a bunch of kids drinking and figured they could use it as an opportunity to hit on drunk teenage girls.
After the camera slowly planned back and faded to black the same scene that always occurs when you find a girls wolf happened. Ruby woke up on the ground outside Grandma's house in the rain. All the girls look hurt when this happens but Ruby's seemed more physically injured then the other girls, perhaps suggesting that her wolf attacked her physically more then mentally.
As you enter Grandma's house the game switches to a first-person perspective. You can look around and you move along a set path be tapping the forward key for each footstep. Grandma's house is always the creepiest part of each play through. As I said earlier it is different depending on the girl you have chosen and the things you find in the forest. Ruby's version seemed to have a lot of imagery to do with schools. Corridors of lockers and a gymnasium. There was also a crashed car, I assume indicating how she hurt her leg.
To further add to my theory that Ruby's wolf abused her physically rather then psychologically, when she reached Grandma's bedroom she was struck by part of the environment and blacked out. The other girls I had played as faded to black or white in some manner. Afterwards you return to the menu where you choose your character and the girl you just played as will be missing.
As I said at the start of this post, The Path is a weird one. Each time I play it I can never really tell if I'm enjoying it, although perhaps that isn't what I meant to get from it. It is an Art Game through and through. The gameplay is minimal and the controls are odd and not all that great. I wouldn't recommend it to everyone, in fact there are very few people I would say its right for. It's probably best not to consider it as entertainment but something closer to a piece of interpretive art, and it's a good one. You could probably look up someones theories on what each girls wolf represents and what the changes to the house reflect but you'd be missing the point. The Path seems to be squarely designed at making you think about this stuff yourself and odds are I've missed half of what the game has to show. Its about $10 on Steam if you want to try it out but I would only recommend it if what I've spoken about has struck a cord with you. If you don't like other art games you'll probably hate The Path, but if you enjoyed something like Dear Esther you may well enjoy this.
P.S. I know I promised I wouldn't do posts with only large screen shots anymore but this one really needed the images to go with the text.