sunking's The Path (PC) review

Interesting experiment; not so great a game

I’m going to save the reader a lot of time here by getting to the point: The Path is not a good game; in fact, it’s not a game at all. It’s not fun. It’s not exciting. It’s not even that enjoyable. What The Path is, is interesting, mysterious, clever, atmospheric and - forgive me for saying so - poetic. The Path is a puzzling ‘interactive experience’ which has no real aim or end goal. The Path is aimless; and yet, if you keep an open mind, and if you bury your preconceptions, you will find that ‘playing’ it yields a unique experience - one which you won’t forget any time soon.

Morbid? Emo? Nooooo - how could you say that?!
The Path is a game which places you in its own twisted version of the Little Red Riding Hood tale. Initially, you have a choice of six girls, each of whom you can play as, and each of whom have a different story to tell. The game has three acts. The first just consists solely of you choosing your avatar. The second act places your character in a forest, where you must reach grandma’s house to deliver to er some supplies. The third act occurs when you’ve reached the house and follows the avatar from the front-door to grandma’s room from a first-person point of view. Only the second of the acts could really be defined as being interactive - the first and last being barely so.

The first time you play the game and are sat down in the forest with your character. You are instructed, specifically, to go to grandma’s house, to stay on the path and to not deviate in any way (do not pass Go; do not collect the £200). So, the first thing you’ll do - naturally - is follow the path to the end, without detouring, enter grandma’s house, and give her the food you’ve brought. The game will then reward you with a small cutscene and report-card detailing the success of your efforts…It will tell you that you failed.

Such is the nature of The Path.

It is only through deviating from the path in act two, from interacting with objects in the forest and from encountering the wolf, that the game will reward you with ’success’. And by then, you’re character will be dead.

Such is the nature of The Path.

This is the kind of ‘game’ that we are dealing with here. Most games are high-concept set-ups, which give the player goals, challenges, targets - to drive towards. Games are often designed around giving the player opportunities to achieve those goals. The traditional measure of a game’s design is in how enjoyable it is for the player to work through its challenges.  And in general, a review of a game focuses primarily on that aspect: on how fun the game is to play?

This is why I feel The Path barely qualifies as a game. The Path has no real victory conditions. On the contrary, The Path does its very best to confound the player by giving them opposite and opposing instructions. The very first lines with which the developer describes the game are:

There is one rule in the game. And it needs to be broken.
There is one goal. And when you attain it, you die.

The game forces the player to drop any pre-conceived notions of what it is to ‘play’ a game is or, even, what exactly defines a game. Judged on the conventional criteria used to evaluate a game’s worth, The Path simply isn’t very good, though. There is barely any gameplay at all, and what little there is, is unchallenging, tedious and, ultimately, a little dull. But to evaluate The Path under these terms - as a game - would be to do it disservice, because it is not a game.

The best I can come with is ‘interactive experience’ because I don’t really know exactly what the The Path is. All I can say is that it’s interesting, a curious piece of programing. You don’t do anything apart from go up to things with your avatar, waiting for them to interact with it, and then watch. The gameplay is almost non-existent. Sure, you can move your avatar all-around the forest in act two, but that’s it - there isn’t even a button to activate objects as the game does that for you.

Bow-chicka-bow-wow

And yet, I’ve spent the last three days playing the game, picking up flowers, picking up all kinds of junk, exploring, discovering - driven by my curiosity to understand and comprehend this phenomenon, this game. Who are these girls? Are they five distinct personalities or one fractured mind? What does the ‘wolf’ represent? Who is the girl in white who flutters around the forest, guiding you? I’m intrigued; I want to know. I’m curious, and there aren’t many games which inspire that kind of thing.

The Path is challenging, but not in any ordinary manner. It dares to tamper with

the fundamental rules of game design, and it poses questions and provokes the player in ways in which games just aren’t supposed to do. What it comes down to is a recommendation, though. Do I recommend, to you, that you go and pay the seven-or-so pounds to download and play it? It kills me, but my answer has to be no.

To everybody but games journalists, critics and aficionados, this game is going to come across as being a pretentious, shallow, boring, unfulfilling waste of time. To those who are willing to look past the hugely simplistic gameplay or who are looking for something different or thought provoking, maybe it's worth giving it a shot. After all, at the worst you’ll just be disappointed.

14 Comments
Posted by Death_Pigeon

LOL telling us we won't like but letting us on that you did makes me want to play this more  =D

Posted by SunKing

I know, I'm such a tease ;)

Posted by DuderBattalion

A very well written review .. I didn't even know such a game existed !! :)

Posted by Zanthox

-Choice of 5 girls (Robin, Rose, Ginger, Ruby, Carmen, and Scarlet).

Decent review, I have been recommending it to as many people I can, but I find myself having to describe myself as "one of those ahole fagtards who thinks games are art" before I describe it to them.

Also it is not completely aimless and you yourself point out, there is one rule and the goal is to break it, if you reach it you die. Your goal is to find each girl's wolf and basically ruin her life. Which is why teh game is so uncofortable and why it leaves such a strong message with the player.
I don't know if i personally think it is 'not a game' but I definately think you would have to say that to the average 'gamer' to get them to not hate it as a rule. It is art using a game or virtual world as a medium to express it. There are game elements in it that you will find (a grade system at the end, flower collect-a-thon, inv screen, ect) but it does so many things that are not like games (typically are) that will buck against anyone who tries to play it as if it was a typical game.

Posted by SunKing

"A choice of five girls..." Oops. The error has been corrected. Thank you for bring it to my attention (I don't where I pulled the number five from).

"Your goal is to find each girl's wolf and basically ruin her life. Which is why teh game is so uncofortable and why it leaves such a strong message with the player."

It's interesting that you consider the game's story in this way, as it just goes to show how highly open to interpretation the whole game is (one its strong points). If you check out the Tale of Tales forums (here: http://tale-of-tales.com/forum/viewforum.php?f=39) you will see dozens of interpretations for different characters and plot points in the game.

Edited by raidingkvatch

I totally agree with your review, most people would find this game incredibly dull, I do hope however enough people will give it a chance cuz it's really cool and interesting, and as far as I'm concerned well worth £6

Posted by axxiomatiq

Tale of Tales is amazing.  I loved 'The Graveyard', so I think I'll have to check this one out.

Edited by Eelcire

The Path so far has been a really interesting experience and the review captures the essence of it. If you jump into The Path expecting a game then you'll probaby be disappointed; but if approached as an interactive experience and narrative, then you'll find some interesting concepts.

Visually, The Path works well within the theme of the title providing a dark, fairytale-ish atmosphere. As a game the pacing would be considered too slow, but as a narrative and interactive piece it works. The Path encourages exploration and discovery through each of the characters and provides a large forest environment to do so.

The review itself does seem conflicted though, downplaying the strengths of The Path when looked at as a game; but at the same time pointing out that is how it should not be looked at in the first place. Of course, that could be the intent of the review as well, mimicing the conflicts within the game. Enjoyed reading it though!

Posted by Oni

Fantastic review, definitely makes me want to check it out as I am one of those guys who's interested in seeing what the medium can do when the focus isn't to simply entertain, but to express.

Posted by Legend

I've never heard about this 'game' before but this review got me interested in checking it out.

Posted by Geno

Hey thanks for the review, I was wondering if I should get it or not.

Posted by zitosilva

That was a great review or, more apropriate, comment on the game. I'm intrigued, I'm going to check it out.

Posted by OrangeChikenSTD

wow looks like something you could talk about in a philosophy or theory of knowledge class

Posted by Dudacles

This is a fantastic review. I probably won't ever play this game though. It's piqued my interest, but not enough to warrant me buying it (or downloading it for that matter).

Online

Other reviews for The Path (PC)

    Art, trapped inside a game 0

    I picked up The Path after being intrigued by its description on Steam. My impressions were that the game would play out like an interactive version of the Little Red Riding Hood fairytale. Such a description is true in some senses but The Path diverges from gaming conventions in a manner that makes it different from any other game I've played before.  The Path is so different from other games because it tries hard NOT to be a game. Standard gaming conventions such as story progression, puzzles,...

    0 out of 0 found this review helpful.

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