The Path is about as indie as a game can get. Developed by an independent Belgian game company, Tale of Tales, I only learned about this game through the GamesRadar last weekend. In one of their Top 7 countdowns, this game was listed among the scariest games never played. Now, I’ve mentioned in the past how I have a bit of a masochistic relationship with scary games: knowing I scare very easily, I still play them just to be scared. However, what made me actually get this game (aside from being the most modern on the list & thus easily accessible) was that various sources call it a “horror art” game. Well, that’s a new classification for me. Horror art?
Before I discuss my initial impressions of The Path, I probably need to clarify what an art game is in the first place. Video games come in a wide variety of genres, & can have a variety of goals. It may be to entertain, educate, tell a story, express an artistic vision, or any number of things the creators can think of. “Art” games, however, seem to focus more on expressing the creator’s artistic vision. It’s a bit confusing to distinguished between an art game & a game with artistic imagery. The best definition I found was from Justin McElroy who said,
“Though a game can be aesthetically pleasing, an art game is using its very structure to produce some kind of reaction.”
It’s sort of like the difference between a building & a sculpture. A building can have an artistic design, but artistic expression isn’t its purpose.
So what is The Path about? The Path is a retelling of the original Little Red Riding Hood story. I’m sure most people know by now that most fairy tales were originally much darker than the versions we read today. The Path has six young girls of varying age, from 9 to 19 I believe. As in the story, your goal is to take each girl to grandma’s house. The game starts with your only rule: Get to Grandma’s house. Don’t go off the path. This is the only game I’ve ever played where following the rules results in a failure. If you follow the path, you arrive at Grandma’s house unscathed in just a few minutes & you get a big “FAILURE” on your rundown screen.
To “win” at the path (& I put it that way because winning appears to result in the girls’ death) you have to break the rule & stray from the path. As you explore the woods with the various girls, you come across various items & locations that you can interact with. Eventually each girl encounters their version of the wolf. Interacting with the wolf leads to an ambiguous cutscene before dropping you at Grandma’s house, which has become dark & twisted.
Currently I’ve only played through it as the youngest girl, Robin. She seems the most similar to the original Little Red Riding Hood. After leaving the path, I wandered through a creepy, empty woods that seemed to become darker the further in I went. I met a young girl dressed in white that appeared at random times. Eventually I came to a graveyard where Robin’s wolf waited: a werewolf. It didn’t attack me, but as I got closer the screen turned red, the music became more sinister & wolf growls filled my headset. Robin then climbed on the wolf’s back. It tried to shake her off at first, but eventually game up. As the wolf howled, random images flashed across the screen. They went too fast for me to see clearly, but I think I saw the wolf, claws, & Robin’s mangled legs with a pool of blood.
When the screen cleared, I was outside grandma’s house & it was raining. Agonizingly slowly, Robin limped into the house. Now everything was dark, with bursts of red & claw marks on the door. I moved through the house as quickly as I could, & eventually came to a room with a bloody bed perched over an empty grave. I jumped when Robin apparently fell (was pushed?) into the grave, & more images flashed by. When the character select screen reappeared, Robin was gone.
Hopefully I can finish this game shortly & have a full review of this unique & thought-provoking game.