It’s a few years since I first came across The Path, by Tale of Tales but, on re-entering the fictional world of the sisters, I find the game has lost none of its appeal. Originally released in 2009 and loosely based around Red Riding Hood, The Path was intended as a different kind of video game with an emphasis on partaking in a narrative, rather than being structured around quests and conquests. However, I feel there is an element of strategy involved as the player is graded according to how many objects they find, how many of the secret rooms they unlock in Grandma’s house.
Game play is deceptively simple. You give a basket to one of the sisters and they leave home with instructions to follow the path to Grandma’s house. The whole point of the game is not to do this, to wander through the forest where you interact with various items, collect flowers and objects. As each sister meanders through the dense woodland, there are items and places specifically for her. However, the player commences with no idea of what to look for, so there is a great emphasis on exploration. In my opinion, much of the game is about unlocking the personalities of the sisters. They are all different, although the stylisation and method through which we unravel this is systematic.
Each sister can meet her nemesis during her travels, but the guise of the wolf is different for every individual. When these situations occur the player can only watch as the scenario unfolds. After this event, the girl is transported to Grandma’s house and her journey through this domain depends upon what she has collected and encountered on her travels through the forest. Here, each sister is upon a path pre-determined by her previous actions.
The Path can be described as a psychological game with a distinct horror edge, however I would argue there is more to the game than just this. For instance, there is a definite attempt to blur the boundary between fine art and the video game. One only has to watch the leafy tendrils growing around the games title as each sister begins her journey, to experience the surrealist arrangement of Grandma’s house and the cubist demise of each sister. In addition, the music is haunting and the sound effects well judged. One aspect of the game which I feel encompasses the horror element is what happens if the player causes a sister to run. This is especially effective in a darkened room with the sound up.
The Path is a game to experience at your leisure. It is a much slower paced game than any other I’ve encountered, but as the emphasis is on participating in each sister’s journey, the pacing works well – this isn’t a game to be rushed, its one to lose yourself in.