I’ve finally gotten round to buying The Path, a game I’ve talked about on a couple of occasions on this blog, from Steam. I’d read a lot of reviews telling me what I should expect, but nonetheless I attempted to go into the game with an open mind to see what the developers has in store for me. This is just a brief account of my first few hours in the game, and in no way a review. This is, I suspect, a game that cannot be reviewed.
The Path is touted as an ‘Art’ game from the creators of the equally un-reviewable The Graveyard (also on Steam), which had players control an elderly woman in a graveyard until she died. Doesn’t sound like much fun? It wasn’t. What it was, was poignant and moving despite the simplicity with which it was presented. ‘Not much fun’ is a pretty good way to sum up The Path, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth a look. This is a game that is never intended to be fun, or even a game. It’s a interactive story about a number of girls, who are controlled and react to things quite differently from one another. I’ve only played with one of them so far, so I can’t comment on the replayability in those terms, but I don’t think it’ll become a game a play very much. What I find about this game is that it frequently makes me uncomfortable and feeling somewhat like a voyeur watching this girl take a trip through her often dark memories, to the extent that I can’t actually play the game for long periods of time.
The game is basically an exploration game, despite the game itself telling you not to stray from the path. However, if you do go off into the woods on either side, there is a relatively large expanse of woods, diotted around which are different unuaual items which you can find, and which makes your character relive a memory tied to them. I’ve not reached the ‘end’ of the game with the girl I chose, and I’m not sure I will. While this is an ‘Art’ game, I’m fairly sure artists still want you to look at their work after completion, so something must have gone wrong here.
Part of it is the way you control your girl. If you want to actually find things in the wood, you need the camera to be about level with the girl so you can look around. However, to move faster than a crawl you need to run, and when you run the camera switches to an overhead view, and slowly darkens to near-black. This, while effective at making the mood even more intense, means that looking for anything while you’re running is near impossible. As a result you’re always stopping and starting, looking around and generally ruining the feel the game has tried so hard to maintain.
Most of the problem, however, is the subject matter. The intensely personal nature of the memories, despite belonging to someone who doesn’t technically exist, make me incredibly uncomfortable when playing. The developers describe it as a ‘horror’ game, which is somewhat accurate. Not because I ever felt scared in the game, but because I defninately felt horror while playing. The subject matter is just too bleak for anything other than intense critical analysis, and who is going to do that for a video game? Perhaps in the future The Path will be viewed as a pioneering game in the process to getting video games to the same status as books and films, but right now it just feels like leering at another persons’ suffering.