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The Path (PC) artwork

The Path (PC) review

"To grandmother's house we go!"

The Path (PC) image

Although The Path is not at all a horrifying adventure, the opening minutes are a bit tense. The game warns you not to stray from the titular straight and narrow, yet the compulsion to disobey that order is difficult to resist. As for me, I couldn't not disregard the game's advisory, as the thought of complying with such a mundane request sent sick shivers down my spine. As you can imagine, I charged headlong into the misty, tenebrous forest, all the while anticipating the appearance of the Big Bad Wolf. At first I flinched at the emergence of any stimulus, regardless of its apparently innocuous nature. Everything from derelict pianos to grungy, old brick walls seemed to caution me that a certain hulking canine was going to leap forth from the dense fog and unzip my lady guts all over the woodland floor.

Yet, the wolf never arrived... As it turns out, The Path's initial warning is but a hollow threat. Good thing, too, as it grants you free reign over the densely wooded area and all of the interactive goodies therein.

The Path is very much a catch-as-catch-can affair. It doesn't blatantly spell out for you where your objectives lie or bog you down with a lengthy tutorial detailing its rules and expectations. You begin the quest by selecting an adolescent girl from a collection of them, each with her own style and personality. The primary objective is to reach Grandma's house (a la "Little Red Riding Hood"), but completing that task alone will only result in a brief romp through the old woman's cottage and a confusing closing cutscene. In order to alter the outcome of the ending you receive, you must stray from the main road and delve into the woods, interacting with various stimuli and picking up a handful of items along the way. For instance, there's an abandoned bathtub that one of the girls will climb into. Upon doing so, peculiar child-like chanting will commence, and a vague message will appear on the screen, providing you with a clue regarding that particular character's backstory.

The Path screenshotThe Path screenshot

Locales, their occupants, and the triggered events surrounding them change depending on which girl you're currently playing. There's a campsite, for example, that is unpopulated when some characters enter it. One particular young lady, though, can drink beer and interact with a redneck camper while he chops firewood. There's also a brick wall that's nothing more than lifeless landmark for most of the girls. One youngster, though, can spray some graffiti on it.

At first, accomplishing these mini-objectives is entertaining and a little intriguing. I enjoyed frolicking in the forest, looking out for key regions--indicated by brilliant pillars of light--in order to fill my basket with more miscellany. Before long, I had quite the collection: a bullet casing, a teddy bear, a knife, a boot, a syringe... Your know, typical teenager paraphernalia. Most of all, I got a kick out of the bizarre cinematic sequences the game had to offer. I'm not saying that they were particularly breathtaking or astutely animated, but the game's blend of "Emily the Strange"-ish visuals and haunting music and sound effects--not to mention its surreal narrative--were an excellent touch.

Unfortunately, The Path isn't thoroughly pleasant...

After a while, the act of collecting items becomes a daunting process. Without a guide or some kind of indicator, it's difficult to tell whether or not you've nabbed every item and experienced every interaction with a certain girl. Worse, the remaining objectives can be tricky to locate. For instance, one girl has to interact with a record player. Bear in mind that this object isn't sitting in the middle of a conspicuous landmark, but hidden somewhere amidst the woods. Not even one of the aforementioned pillars of light indicates where this puppy dwells. In other words, you could search the forest for days and never spot the thing.

The Path screenshotThe Path screenshot

This problem might've been alleviated with a map. What's that? The game provides you with one? Let me reiterate: the issue would have been better remedied with a comprehensible map. What the game provides instead is a map that appears after a certain number of steps and disappears just as quickly. All it shows is a dashed line, denoting where you've gone, and some ambiguous icons. Not once have I found this map useful, nor has it ever aided me in discovering a key location. Everything I uncovered was pure luck.

I might have been more motivated to complete this game, assuming it had a tight storyline to follow. Sadly, The Path's narrative is far too enigmatic and open to interpretation. While I do enjoy surreal stories, The Path is so cryptic that it's difficult to get sucked into it. There's no wondering what will transpire next or discovering something definitive about a character. All the game provides you with is a bunch of childish singing and some hazy clues.

Suffice it to say that I lost interest in The Path before I was able to finish it. The insane chunks of time I spent doing nothing except plodding through the woods to find needles in haystacks became too much of a chore. One could argue that games like The Path are not meant to be entertaining, but stimulating. Unfortunately, The Path gradually loses its grip as you uncover items. This is where I have to wonder why the game couldn't be both fun and stimulating? I think that's where The Path ultimately strays from its course.


JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Community review by JoeTheDestroyer (June 01, 2014)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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EmP posted June 01, 2014:

Back when Lewis was still a thing, he really sold me on this game as something I had to play. I always felt a little bad that the thing I seemingly sold him on playing was Fahrenheit/Indigo Prophecy (Which I did by saying "Don't play Fahrenheit" and him yelling "Don't tell me what to do THE MAN!") he went ahead and suffered through, yet I just can't work up the urge to play this. I nabbed the demo on Steam ages back, where you play a prologue jaunt with the girl in white and nothing grabbed me at all.

So I guess your review reflects what I might thin if I ever took the plunge and forced my way though. So now I don't have to. Thanks!
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JoeTheDestroyer posted June 01, 2014:

I'm glad I could spare you more agony. It's really not an awful game, though. It just gets tiresome before too long.

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