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What's your wolf? Review of The Path

by: Barghest ; edited by: J. F. Amprimoz ; updated: 4/17/2012 • Leave a comment

Review of The Path - an original, unorthodox and eerie interactive fairy tale filled with philosophical and artistic metaphors. But is it a video game?

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    Introduction

    Reviewing The Path is a difficult thing to do. More than once I have stumbled upon the same question while browsing different gaming forums - is it really a computer game? While the definitive answer is more likely to be positive, considering that you control a fictional character in 3-D environment with a certain goal to accomplish, The Path, in my opinion, is first and foremost an artistic and philosophical statement.

    Described by the developers as a "short horror game", it is indeed short in the way that you can "finish" it in a couple of minutes. However, this is certainly not the meaning behind this project, and the various metaphors and associations it brings in your mind can result in hours, if not days of pondering about the meaning of game's content, as well as triggers and definitions hiding in your own subconscious mind. Let's start a step-by-step analysis of this weird, alien entity in today's gaming world of frags, damage per second, levels and hyper-challenging AI opponents.....

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    Graphics

    A moment of sunshine The reason I'm not fiving a full five points for graphics is that, judging from a completely objective point of view, technically they are not that impressive - this is not your typical thousands-of-polygons-per-model action game, with characters so realistic you would swear you see them sweat and environments that sometimes look better than real life... No, The Path features rather simplistic 3D graphics that could be seen in a game a couple of years old, and shows no jaw-dropping, revolutionary rendering that would be a topic of discussion for weeks and a challenge for your GPU.

    For the opposite as to why such a title deserves a rating of "good" in my eyes... Static screenshots are rarely a fair representation of what you see in game, and that cold not be moreWelcome to the forest  true than in this case. The polygon count and other technical details slip from your mind, as the visuals work for the very purpose they were intended - setting the mood. The Path can be described as eerie and unsettling, and graphics contribute to that very well. The gamma and colour palette slowly, but constantly shifts, weird symbols crawl around your view, and you walk through depressing gray and disturbing forest to step out in a happy clearing full of sunshine, colorful flowers and joy - or the other way around... The visual style is quite grotesque as well, and, combined with the twitching colors, splatters and little images appearing and disappearing as you move through the game world, really succeeds in creating a strong, unforgettable impression.

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    Sound

    Let's continue with game's take on another of your senses - hearing... This is the point where I see absolutely no flaws - sound is just like you would expect in a gothic fairy tale. Creepy violins and small girls singing add to a disturbing despite calm and peaceful manner of execution. Heartbeats, rusty chains screeching, someone's heavy steps and breathing - it all creates an impressive, dark, brooding theme that feels like an integral part of The Path, organic and as important as every other piece of puzzle that this game is. Remove it, and the impression will be greatly flawed - an accomplishment not every game's sondtrack can be proud of. Thus, in my opinion, it deserves a full five, although maybe not a masterpiece by itself as some soundtracks that you would listen to as everyday music, but an ambient effect that contributes to mood as much as everything else in The Path.

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    Gameplay

    Uhh, and there we are - at the Wolf of this review... errm... the hardest point in the voyage for me. I refuse to rate it because I believe it is simply impossible. From a distant, mechanical point of view about The Path as an adventure game, it is very simple. You enter it and your first stop in the journey is the main menu, which consists of a room and six little girls for you to choose. Then you enter the game and find yourself on the road surrounded by forest. Using the directional buttons, you can move and turn, alternatively you can turn with your mouse and walk by pressing the left mouse button. The right button is for running, the corresponding key being Shift. To interact with an object, just go near it and release the keys.

    So you can walk the road straight to your grandma's house, upon entering which the only thing you can do is move forward, reach the old lady's bed and see a wolf beside it, lay down/sit at the side of grandma (depends on character), and the game ends.... With twitching images of wolf's maw and death. Then a little scoreboard jumps out, details your progress through the game and deems it a... failure. Then you find yourself in the menu again, with the girls waiting for you to pick one.

    Alternatively (or after suffering such inglorious fate as previously written) you can stray off the path, something the game explicitly tells you not to do, and wander into the forest. This is where you start to understand and where the game shows its true self. As it appears, every girl has a different personality, and, as you walk through the forest and find different objects to interact with, every Riding Hood comments on them differently, revealing more and more of their personalities and the archetypes they represent - the childish, the bitter, the self-important and egoistic, the kind.... And sooner or later you meet the wolf - or rather, something or someone that represents a wolf for the girl in question, another philosophical metaphor. Not wanting to spoil, the last thing I will share is that, if you are keen on philosophy and analysis, you will find yourself immersed deeply in The Path, thinking about the psychological meaning of this and the metaphorical nature of that, which is highly entertaining for some... and not so much for others.Wolves come in many shapes... 

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    Conclusion

    So, to summarise, The Path is a very original and specific game. If philosophy and pondering upon symbolism is your thing, you will be very satisfied. If you look for an adventure game that differs and delivers a message, definitely try it. On the other side, if you are looking for more conventional gameplay and clearly defined goals, this game might just not cut it for you. All and all, I suggest you to give a try - if just to see something very unlike your everyday computer game... The decision is yours to make, of course.