#958 The Path

Posted: 31st May 2012 by Jeroen in Games
Tags: , , ,

151st played so far

Genre: Adventure
Platform: PC
Year of Release: 2009
Developer: Tale of Tales
Publisher: Tale of Tales

Now for something completely different. In what we’ve decided will be tradition, after completing another batch of 50 we turn to something slightly different – indie and different from what we expect. We did it before with Facade, now it’s time for The Path.

The Path is described on Wikipedia as being a psychological horror art game. Its premise is simple – you start the game as one of six girls and have a simple mission – go to Grandmother’s house. Stay on the path.

Our Thoughts

The first time we listened and, well, obviously it was boring. If you play the game properly, of course you don’t stay on the path. You leave it, and that’s where it starts.

For most of the game, you walk through the forest alone, accompanied by creepy music. You’ll occasionally meet a girl in white, and most of the interactive objects you find are golden clovers, which are little more than the game’s collectibles – 144 in total, and you get little from it except for hints on where to find items. Whilst you roam the forest there is the option to walk or run (with every 100 metres travelled allowing a fleeting glimpse at where you have travelled so far). Running does offer many advantages since it allows you to cover distance quickly, however it means you forfeit the ability to find clovers since they only sparkle when you are walking at a leisurely pace.

Those items are the second part of the game – and in a way the point of the game. For each girl you need to gather several items, and doing so unlocks rooms of the grandmother’s house and work towards the game’s ‘ending’. These items all seem junk left in the forest and all feel vaguely dirty, even if they may not always seem it. There’s a red balloon to collect, for example, and a (two-headed) teddy bear – grimy, but sweet in a way. But then there’s the shotgun shells and the needles, less savoury things to find in the forest.

Whilst all items are always present in the forest, each girl can only collect certain ones. Interactions with these items lead to character specific dialogue. Ruby is a goth who walks with a limp, as such her dialogue is nihilistic and some of her items include a spray paint can and a syringe. Then there is Robin who is innocent and rather than being fearful of being lost in the woods retains her innocence… even taking to skipping merrily through a graveyard since she is unable to comprehend death. Ruby, Robin, Scarlett, Rose, Ginger and Carmen. With the exception of the last one (where I do not see the red link – probably based on carmine) the namings are rather clever.

When you find all the items meant for your girl, the girl in white leads you back, but it’s not the proper end to get to all the content. Of all the characters in the game it is “The Girl In White” who is the most interesting. Whilst the grandma is fairly creepy this young girl is the closest you have to an ally. At first I was very wary of her since in a game where encountering a wolf will cause your character to lie hurt in the road clutching yourself. She beckons you to follow her and to be honest I was suspicious that she was trying to lead you towards the wolf like one of the sirens from Greek mythology. She is quite the contrary. She leads you to objects and interacts with your character in child-like ways such as telling jokes and playing patty-cake. She is also the only way you will find your way back to the path to safety. Truly, she is your guardian angel.

To get all content, you have to find the wolf. That’s just something you need to experience. It is an experience. After you encounter the wolf it is clear that your character has been murdered. Grandma’s house becomes even more eerie and the character disappears from your roster. What else has happened to them? Well that’s up to your imagination. Their slow-walk as they comfort themselves by cradling their arm… were they brutally murdered? Were they raped? It’s up to your interpretation. Personally, I still feel guilt for leading my first character (Scarlett) to her wolf. This game gets in your head.

The game is very atmospheric and every element contributes to put you in a constantly uncomfortable state. It’s not in-your-face scary, but keeps making you shift, afraid of what might pop up in the distance. The music is gothic, very creepy, and the forest is dark. While there’s some nice plants, the few models get repeated so they don’t become distracting, and while the expanse is beautiful at first, it gets scary soon. Then there’s the item locations – half crumbled buildings, dirty abandoned couches, none of which are very comfortable. Positively creepy.

If there’s one game that qualifies as art in the whole ‘Are videogames art?’ debate, it’s this. It’s an experience, it makes you feel and worry, it can touch you quite deeply. For that reason alone, it’s worth experiencing.

Final Thoughts

As I said, this game got into my head. Survival horrors freak me out because of the whole idea of life and death. The Path prayed on my empathy and new found responsibility as a teacher and made me feel incredibly wary and guilty hours after finishing the game. It annoyed Jeroen a bit becuase, as he said, it is just a game.

In the end though… it isn’t. To play to completion you need to lead these girls like lambs to the slaughter. It isn’t fun violence like Saints Row 2 and the moral compass isn’t as loose as in inFamous. All these girls, in the end, are innocents. The wolf could mean death in the literal sense or the death of innocence that comes from sexual awakening or something traumatic. It’s your choice. Dead or alive. Innocent or corrupted. The wolf never seeks you out but is fed by the player’s curiosity or need for completion. I was unable to feed him a second time after I saw the consequences that befell the first girl. Powerful stuff.

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