Pathways Into Darkness (Mac) review
"Bungie came from humble beginnings, debuting with a Pong clone in 1985, maturing in 1993 with Pathways Into Darkness, a rather grim RPG/Adventure hybrid featuring graphics rendered from a first-person POV. Technically it was their first "shooter", although shooting takes a backseat to frustrating puzzles and frequent deaths. You're an American Spec Ops paratrooper in a unit inserted deep into the Yucatan jungle. Your chute does not deploy and you fall to earth separated from your s..."
Bungie came from humble beginnings, debuting with a Pong clone in 1985, maturing in 1993 with Pathways Into Darkness, a rather grim RPG/Adventure hybrid featuring graphics rendered from a first-person POV. Technically it was their first "shooter", although shooting takes a backseat to frustrating puzzles and frequent deaths. You're an American Spec Ops paratrooper in a unit inserted deep into the Yucatan jungle. Your chute does not deploy and you fall to earth separated from your squad. An indeterminable amount of time later, you awake dazed in the rainforest, carrying nothing but a knife and a flashlight. Once you reach your team's target -- an ancient Mayan pyramid -- by falling into a tomb several stories beneath the earth, things start to get weird really fast.
Total darkness consumes your world. Your flashlight works for a very limited time but you must use it here. You are in a dank and clammy tunnel system several levels beneath the ziggurat. All you need to do is make it back to the surface, hook up with your teammates, then detonate the low-yield nuke carried by your leader. This will hopefully cause the earth to crumble and bury the malevolent god lying dormant beneath the temple. Yes, your enemy is an omnipotent being and he's going to wake up in five days. You're being sent here because a hyper-advanced alien race somehow contacted the US Government, warning of impending apocalypse. Just the type of thing you knew you'd be getting into when you enlisted.
Signs are gloomy from the time you venture down the tunnel a ways, coming across a decomposing skeleton wrapped in the tattered remains of a gray uniform. A black helmet lies beside the opened dust-filled skull, and what's this? A red armband with a telltale swastika embroidered upon it is wrapped to a sleeve beside what's left of the poor man's severed arm. These brittle digits are wrapped around the handle of a Walther P4 pistol. You take it, discovering the gun is still in operable condition. You find more dead Germans entombed in this place, yielding ammunition. Take as much as you can, the game does not give you nearly enough but at least you'll be able to fight back when the bipedal acid-spitting frogs start hopping out of the gloom. The P4 is more than adequate to deal with these creatures, known as the "Headless", which would tell you that something more fearsome wiped out those SS troopers.
You are in the lair of a sleeping god after all; any number of nightmare creations spring from his very whims in brief flights of fancy. You are left to deal with mud zombies sporting gaping chest vaginas, spider-crabs with claw-legs and lots and lots of bone-flinging skeletons. Pathways is unique from Doom in that the entire pyramid, sub-levels and all, gradually becomes accessible as play continues and you can backtrack at any time. Once you acquire a yellow crystal allowing you access to telepathic communication with the dead souls trapped in this temple, the puzzles begin to involve lengthy backtracking. Combat is frequent and ammo can easily run out. You acquire a machine pistol later on, which chews through the two clips available for it. You find dead creatures wiped out by your team, and then later on you find out exactly what happened to them. Talking to the dead solves a few puzzles, and you also find other crystals allowing weak, although rechargable, elemental attacks to help kill monsters.
RPG elements come into play to make the game all the more frustrating. Your health is always very low until you acquire potions. Your inventory is pathetically small, and to top it off, the only way to beat the game is to duplicate all your ammo with a magical item-duplicating timber box. Without it, you'll never have enough Sabot rounds to put into that AK-47 you got from the dead Cuban mercenaries. Those mustachioed flying black walruses will kill you either with ranged attacks or by exploding. The Sabot rounds (or one of the three M-79 grenades you acquire) are able to cause them to vaporize prematurely. You fight a lot of these creatures. If you managed to reach the end, where you have to hike a nuke into the center of the complex, congratulations. There's kind of a level system that increases combat effectiveness, but it feels pretty half-assed. Pathways is only rewarding for the solo Mac user with loads of free time to figure out the twistedly complicated puzzles. No multiplayer options to consider.
If you're really curious or bored, Pathways into Darkness is worth checking out for historical value. Bungie would make Marathon next, which was a quantum leap forward in every category, and spawned an awesome franchise of its own. All of these were side projects of Halo, which was supposed to be the company's second game. Thankfully they didn't blow their load early and release it on the early 1990s-era Macintosh.
Community review by johnny_cairo (August 24, 2007)
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