By John Walker on February 15th, 2008 at 1:47 pm.
One of the more esoteric and unusual games in the forthcoming Independent Game Festival awards, Tale of Tales’ The Path doesn’t play like most games. It pretends to. But it’s not the same.
It goes some way to doing justice to the experience of playing the game, but can’t quite capture the feelings of agorophobia and confusion, in the fairy-tale inspired horror short.
“There is one rule in the game. And it needs to be broken.
There is one goal. And when you attain it, you die.”
You play a young girl, her left leg either false, or in complex splints, making her way down a path to her grandmother’s house. Stick to the path and reach the house, and it’ll be over in a couple of minutes, but you’ll have lost. To win is to lose. Leave the path and you lose all sense of direction. It starts getting incredibly dark, and you just run in random directions, following what might be paths, until you find yourself in an abandoned playground, or a graveyard, or playing pat-a-cake with a ghostly girl.
Add in the score composed by super-spooksome Jarboe of Swans fame, which sort of composes itself in realtime, according to your actions, and the atmosphere builds to a remarkable level.
Each time I’ve played, I’ve found something completely new. Each discovery is dark and unsettling, provoking emotional responses from your character. But each feels like a moment of safety. Eventually you’ll stray back into the woods again, the light fading, panic setting in once more as the heartbeat sound speeds up. Finding the path again after leaving it, however briefly, seems impossible, with what look like trails leading nowhere – or somewhere else. It’s an impressively terrifying experience.
Nominated for Excellence in Visual Art, it’s up against some tough competition from Fez, but it would be great to see it getting the recognition. (Expect Kieron to mock it for being for goths in the comments).