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The Path on PC and Mac is methodical and disturbing in its portrayal of danger. innocence and vulnerability. Its unusual visual and interactive style creates an experience as educational as it is unnerving.
The Path asks a lot of its audience, demanding that players completely submerge themselves in its world and characters. All horror games require an element of role-playing from their audience. If a title cannot draw the player into its fiction then there is no hope of eliciting the base instinctive emotion of fear. In The Path the realization of this immersion is especially challenging due to the nature of its characters and the open narrative structure, but if you can get past these obstacles you are rewarded with unsettling tales of lost innocence.
The Path on PC or Mac loads directly to a character select screen where you can select one of six girls for your quest. The horror genre has always exploited the perceived vulnerability of women as a tool to accentuate dangerous situations. With mainstream gaming attracting a predominantly male audience the lack of a male lead is conceivably a hurdle for players in associating with the characters. In a game so dependent on the audience's willingness to take the role of their character this could be seen as a bold move, but a necessary one for the story Tale of Tales wished to tell.
It was a simple idea but one that immediately made me feel ill at ease and off guard.
The Path draws its inspiration form the story of Little Red Riding Hood and as such begins at the edge of a forest, with the simple instruction to follow the path to Grandma's house. As I played it quickly became clear I had almost no tools for interaction, leaving me with no option but to slowly walk my female avatar towards her goal. It was a simple idea but one that immediately made me feel ill at ease and off guard.
As she moved towards her goal various elements of the surrounding environment were ghostly transposed across the display, peaceful images that made the monotonous walk a fairytale like quality. All this was a little much to bear at times, and I found my heart pounding and hairs standing up more than once.
Arriving at Grandma's house shifted the perspective from third to first person. Here all free agency was taken from me, only allowing movement along a set route toward Grandma. Taking a convoluted route through the quiet house saw my eventual arrival at Grandma's bedroom, where I sat down beside her as a wolf watched over us. The following text screen told me my journey had been a failure.
Perplexed, I discovered the goal is not to follow the rules but to explore. It is through this discovery of the world that you realize your characters' desires. The Path is about the girls becoming aware of themselves as women, and this is where the horror begins.
The Path is methodical and disturbing in its portrayal of danger. innocence and vulnerability.
It is a rather damning statement of society that the title paints, and one that requires you to be invested in your character. I really felt the vulnerability of the girl but also her inquisitiveness, desire and playfulness. It is a difficult thing to do for a young male socially conditioned to feel powerful and emotionally detached. But as I let myself go I found an eye opening experience - as I let myself be ‘taken' by a ‘wolf'. Each girl's ‘wolf' is different, echoing her nighmarish desires.
Some might say that this all makes for an odd and unsatisfying game. But it is a worthwhile experience if you can open yourself to what it offers. The sound, the fairy book art style all play superbly to the message developer Tale of Tales of intended to convey.
The Path is methodical and disturbing in its portrayal of danger. innocence and vulnerability. It oscillates between dream and nightmare with alarming ease and, if you are able to fully sink yourself into the world presented to you, it will let you experience a very different kind of fear from other horror games. It is an acquired taste, but at around GBP9.99 it is worth a try if you are looking for a scare.
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