The Path Less Travelled
March 2, 2009 7:52 PM   Subscribe

The Path is a new independent horror-game inspired by the original Little Red Riding Hood stories, being developed by Tale of Tales (previously). The website is fun to explore, and the blog has many links to (and interviews with) their inspirations. They've also interviewed some other game designers. [via]
posted by empath (4 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
I've been watching this over the last couple of years, because I'm interested in anything Auriea Harvey does-- I've been following her work since the days of Entropy 8. Glad to see this here.
posted by jokeefe at 8:18 PM on March 2, 2009

Well, I'm definitely intrigued.
posted by Caduceus at 9:23 PM on March 2, 2009

I wish I could find more games being made like this!
posted by unicazurn at 11:00 PM on March 2, 2009

Ugh. I was disappointed. Not so much because the game was inherently bad (which it wasn't), but because the developers made it look like something other than it was.

The impression I got watching the various trailers on the site was that of a first-person exploration horror game -- wandering through a vast, surreal, nightmarish haunted house, encountering disturbing scenes at every turn. Maybe a solving few puzzles, maybe a fleeing a few rare enemies, maybe even assembling a subtle story, but mainly just soaking up the atmosphere of an immersive horror setting.

In the actual game, this environment, which is trumped up so much by the trailers, is reduced to a denouement section at the end of each "chapter" -- and it's on rails. Once you finish a section, you enter "grandmother's house" and simply press any key to advance. When you do, you walk forward a few feet. When you don't, you sit there. It's a digital Haunted Mansion ride, except in The Path you can't even look around freely -- your point of view is as locked-in as your movements.

The meat of the game is an expansive forest between you and the house. This part is played in third-person, and is very clunky. The default walk speed is painfully slow, and if you choose to run the camera pulls back into an awkward aerial view with your character at the top of the screen, so you can see what's behind you as you run but not what lies ahead. Instead of using a simple free-look/arrow key combo for movement, you move by pressing an acceleration key and steer by moving the mouse laterally. This makes for very obtuse navigation, especially in a forest full of trees.

You can choose to walk the path to the house like you're told, but after spending five minutes doing that you're rewarded with a nice "FAILURE" screen for neglecting to find any of the objects or rooms in the level, which you were never informed about needing in the first place. So on the second go you plunge into the forest -- only to find a bizarre collection of random objects scattered about the landscape. Sofas, rusty cars, wheelchairs, headstones. Pausing at any one will cause your character to "interact", which involves manipulating the object while cryptic text appears on-screen. For example (paraphrasing): "To be in the mist. To be mist. To miss. To be missed." The entire time you are bombarded with incongruous ambient noise: clanking chains, creaking metal, laughter, strange gurgles.

That's it, as far as I can tell. Wander around, find objects, enter the house, rail through a disturbing room or three, end chapter. You can do this with a menagerie of characters, though I can't begin to tell what difference that choice makes.

The game is basically too clever for its own good. It aims for the artfully abstract, but in the end it is so willfully unclear that it approaches nonsensical. There's no narrative grounding, no clue as to who these girls are, where they are, what the nature of their world is. Even the UI is confusingly unclear -- what I now assume are directional integrators are mixed ambiguously with various random onscreen decorations (splotches, lacy curls, "old-timey" film blemishes). Simply bad design. I'd also hesitate to call the game "horror" -- it has the requisite creepy sound effects, but beyond that the plot (if there is one) is so abstract and disjointed that there's really nothing to be afraid of. Apart from the fear of what one doesn't understand, I guess.

There may be people that appreciate this type of game. I have in the past, myself -- I really liked Braid, for instance. But The Path just didn't do it for me. The story is hopelessly obscured, and the gameplay mechanics are so awkward and unenjoyable that it's not appealing to tiptoe through that forest for more than a few minutes when you know you're only going to find more inscrutable artifacts and mute set pieces. The walk-through of the house is the most interesting part, but when its exploration is so limited and predicated on spending much more time trudging through the wilderness outside, it's just not worth it.
posted by Rhaomi at 11:36 PM on March 18, 2009

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