In A Dark, Dark Wood: The Path Released

By John Walker on March 19th, 2009 at 3:42 pm.

Do look now.

Tale of Tale’s The Path is officially released today, and now available on Steam. Last week I wrote my impressions of the peculiarly evocative art project – trying to present a mixture of the opinions that formed in my brain, about a game that deserves attention/confusion. The twist on Little Red Riding Hood has you take six sisters on a journey through the woods on their way to Grandmother’s House. However, heading straight there isn’t how to play. It’s all about deviating from the task, and the path, and getting lost in the woods. It’s £7.25 on the UK Steam, $10 in the US, and 7,90€ in Europe. Do I recommend it? I do, but I sort of squirm in my seat at the same time. Well, read this, it explains it better.

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218 Comments »

  1. Rook says:

    I’m really disappointed in the way that this game has been previewed, and what people have felt the need to leave out as it’s an “arty game”. And I’m not sure that jpg explains it better :p but the Mighty Boosh do a good summary: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sMCRwQalRuQ&feature=related

  2. phil says:

    Is the link broken or does the game essentially revolve around messy field flowers?

  3. celebdae says:

    Bought it off Steam earlier but can’t get it to run. It just comes up with “PathViewer.exe has stopped working”, then closes.

    I am somewhat sad.

  4. LionsPhil says:

    “I am somewhat sad.”

    See? True art is angsty.

  5. bansama says:

    I hate this game. And for that reason I find I actually like it. It does not make me feel good when playing; in fact I feel exceedingly unwell. As I said elsewhere, this game makes things like Dead Space seem happy in comparison.

  6. Clockwork Harlequin says:

    What an absolutely lovely-looking game. I look forward to playing it (although, crass as I am, I’ll no doubt end up disappointed that it’s not a fps). . .

  7. James G says:

    After your earlier comments I shall have to look at this, if only to have an opinion.

    Oh, and nice reference in the title by the way. (Assuming it is a reference of course.)

  8. Theoban says:

    I’ll be picking this up after playing the Zombie FPS Gore-a-thon that was The Graveyard.

  9. Spludge says:

    I thoroughly recommend this game to everyone. I’m still trying to figure out all the nuances to it, and I’ve blasted through it once. But yeah, as said previously, it’s not one that’ll let you get away with treating it lightly.

    Also worth noting is that it is based on the original Red Riding Hood. Which was kinda about rape, or so I’ve been told. Fairy tales were a lot darker back in the day, apparently. I think that’s the key to understanding what in the hooray is going on with this thing.

  10. Heliocentric says:

    If You wait around long enough in the grave yard the dead start to rise and the game becomes an fps. The old lady has awesome 1 liners.

  11. Rob F says:

    I didn’t like it.

    Not in the it made a negative emotional impact on me sort of way, unless you count the feeling that your intelligence levels are being dropped by every new “encounter” or “memory” you face in the game. More in the “it’s a broken game mixed with my first sub David Lynch arthouse movie” sort of way.

    I dunno, I can’t shake the feeling that it being made by 40 year old men is more than a bit embarrassing, y’know. I felt a little bit more stupid for enduring it hoping it had something other than cod Emogothlynchian rubbish filtered through a stunted world view to offer.

    On a lighter note, the clipping errors were entertaining.

  12. Ian says:

    @ Spludge: Yeah. Like when you look at the original story of The Little Mermaid how drinking the potion to take her voice/give her legs made her feel like she’d been impaled and was walking on razors. And her feet bled all over the place.

    And then in the ending life shits all over her again. Cheery stuff.

    Anyway, I’ll likely pick this up at some point. Perhaps the weekend. I feel this is a game I need my own opinion on.

  13. Lewis says:

    Rob F: I can’t help but feel a little sad that you expected polish from two people who are self-admittedly not games developers, but artists who are exploring new ways of working.

    (Only one of whom is a 40-year-old man, incidentally.)

    celebdae: someone over on the official forums is having the same problem. You might want to keep an eye on the thread to see how to sort it.

  14. celebdae says:

    Lewis: Thanks for the heads-up, I’ll have a look.

  15. Bob Arctor says:

    Need a demo to see whether I find it too slow.

  16. Gunrun says:

    Please don’t buy this game. It’s irredimably awful in pretty much every way.
    “But it’s art”
    “But it was only made by 2 people”
    These are not excuses.

  17. Lewis says:

    Bob Arctor: try The Graveyard. The Path is, for the most part, much faster, but its slowest bits are even slower. Use that as a benchmark.

  18. Lewis says:

    Gunrun: An excellent and measured response. Care share any details?

  19. Paul Moloney says:

    Hmm, I’m totally intrigued by all the comments on this game, so feel I have to buy it before I read any killer spoilers. *kerchink* Will play it, _then_ come back and read these threads.

    P.

  20. Heliocentric says:

    Its not speed i want to know but merit. How narrow is this world view? I’ll probably have to wait on a demo unless the desire to be depressed is overwhelming. Why does everyone have to ruin goth chicks!

  21. Lewis says:

    There won’t be a demo, I don’t think. It wouldn’t really be possible. Unless you just had the one girl unlocked or something, but even then they’d be giving away a hell of a lot of content.

    The world view isn’t narrow at all. A lot of people are finding it very depressing, but it’s not at all the only interpretation.

  22. Weylund says:

    Gunrun – but I usually buy “iredimably” awful games. They remind me of home. In Iredim.

    Why would the game need excuses?

  23. hydra9 says:

    I’ve only played it for about 15 minutes so far, and my travels through the forest are completely innocent and charming. I expect ugly things await me, though…

    Btw, I bought the game direct from Tale Of Tales’ site. A quick bit of PayPal-ing gets you a regular Windows installer and a serial number. Works perfectly.

  24. diebroken says:

    Interesting, might have to check this out sometime (after Pathologic). Also, breaking news Far Cry 2 DLC is now available on Steam!

    P.S. has anyone ever heard of/played Bloodline (not the Vampires one)?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0crbU3xR5Is
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FOubiuu8Ibo

    http://merlin.pl/Bloodline-uspione-zlo/browse/product/8,418638.html

  25. Gunrun says:

    http://diehardgamefan.com/2009/03/13/review-the-path-pc/
    I wish this review wasn’t so full of spoilers but it’s a very good summary of why the game is bad.

  26. Rob F says:

    I don’t see how anyone being “artists exploring a new medium” makes up for it being filled to the brim with fundamentally idiotic design choices. Inconsistent controls, stealing control, disabling controls and forcing the controls might seem like pushing the boundaries of what we expect from a game to some, but when it boils down to it – it’s actually just a bit of a rubbish thing to do. The only thing that particular element challenged was my patience.

    Perhaps that was their intent? Hardly a justification if it is the case.

    But I fear you’re making something of perhaps the smallest part of why I disliked it. Sure, it’s broken – man, I run an amateur game developer site, I’ve been playing games for nearly 30 years now, I’ve seen broken (and hardly been not guilty of releasing broken things myself) and I’m happy to overlook broken bits in games.

    I’m more bothered by The Path being a bunch of depressingly (not -depressing-) predictable movie tropes wedged into a game format (yeah, I said tropes – I’m not afraid) and as I inferred above – coming off more like a first year art/film students first project. Wrapped as it is in sub Lynch cum Goth visuals for bonus points. I fear I couldn’t have rolled my eyes further back in my head at such priceless moments as discovering a bath in the forest y’know.

    I don’t find it embarrassing that it’s done by at least one 40 year old because it’s broken, I find it embarrassing because it’s a load of old cobblers that runs perilously close to coming from the Torchwood school of adult but with a much more dour face.

  27. Lewis says:

    It’s a terrible summary of why the game is bad. My conversation with the writer, in the comments thread following, leads him to talk much more sensibly about his thoughts.

    We still disagree, but, y’know. He actually makes sense.

    Yes, it is indeed a bit glitchy. It’s less glitchy than a lot of mainstream releases. Yes, it is often slow. That’s an artistic statement, not a fault.

    Whether or not it’s a game about rape is a completely subjective and interprative issue. To dismiss it because of its “story” is ridiculous in a game that doesn’t explicitly have one.

  28. Lewis says:

    Rob F: absolutely fair points. I’ll have to think of some counter arguments :)

  29. Jaxtrasi says:

    “Rob F: I can’t help but feel a little sad that you expected polish from two people who are self-admittedly not games developers, but artists who are exploring new ways of working.”

    When you charge money for something, surely you implicitly promise polish?

  30. bansama says:

    When you charge money for something, surely you implicitly promise polish?

    Points to Eternity’s Child…

  31. Rob F says:

    Heh, I wish that were the case Jaxtrasi. I always see it more as the author seeing implicit financial value in his work as opposed to a promise of polish.

    ‘Course, I also don’t think a certain degree of polish is too much to ask but when some of the most rough around the edges games are enjoyable (even Boiling Point had it’s moments of unabashed genius) it’s not something I necessarily expect when forking over cashmonies.

  32. Jaxtrasi says:

    Comparing John’s impressions with those of the guy from diehardgamefan is really interesting for its inversion of a conventional stereotype:

    Christian Youth Worker: “This game deserves hesitant praise for being really upsetting.”

    Gothy Literature Type Guy: “This is a disgusting rape simulator.”

  33. Markoff Chaney says:

    I played as one of the girls this morning and love it so far, but David Lynch is one of my favorite directors, so… ;)

    Some times, you feel slower than you should. When running, you can’t see as much. Really beautiful and horrible. Exactly what I hoped it would be. Even knowing what was coming, I still caught myself yelling “NO” at my screen this morning when it did something I wasn’t fully expecting, so I walked away for 5 minutes. It was still waiting for me… I can’t wait to spend more time with it, so I bow out now before the spoilers hit (and I hope mine are vague enough).

    I also purchased this from the Tale of Tales’ site. Works like a charm.

  34. Pags says:

    When you charge money for something, surely you implicitly promise polish?

    So it’s a fair bet to say you’re not particularly fond of punk?

    Not that I’d compare The Path to something as culturally profound as the punk movement, but it’s certainly a smaller cog in a games movement which includes games like Pathologic that eschews polish and even playability in favour of abstract commentary.

  35. SteveHatesYou says:

    I thought The Graveyard was complete wankery… is there any chance that I’ll like this? It sounds a little more interesting.

  36. Lewis says:

    SteveHatesYou: if you use the term “wankery” to dismiss a piece of art, then no, not at all.

    Anyway: from the official forum just now, by a user called “whatahorrriblenight2haveatroll” –

    “You’re gonna have to patch in the ability to complete the game without getting your girls raped, or I’m gonna have to go Mr. Lawsuit on your ass.”

    And it begins.

  37. phil says:

    From the negative reviews and plot spoilers (I couldn’t help myself), this ‘game’ seems more of an art object than a polished and professional game experience – that said, there’s a time and place for unsettling, challenging content that refuses to let you win or actually enjoy the experience – though I suppose it’s a shame that it couldn’t be another Silent Hill 2 , in terms of well implemented play mechcanics and professional presentation. I’m still going to give it go though.

  38. Rob F says:

    Lewis, What’s he going to accuse them of in court? Offending idiots?

  39. Jaxtrasi says:

    So it’s a fair bet to say you’re not particularly fond of punk?

    You’re conflating two concepts here. The first is the polish of the art itself, and the second is the polish of the media the art is communicated on.

    Punk isn’t about sound quality. It’s not clean. However, it’s reasonable to expect that the tape will play in the first place, even if it (intentionally) sounds like crap because what they were playing sounded like crap and they recorded it with crap equipment.

    If the tape doesn’t actually work, that’s a completely separate problem. If it’s got chewing gum stuck to it which gums up your tape player, that’s actual crap, not art.

    The equivalent here would be the gameplay. The gameplay of The Path is, according to what we’ve read here, retardedly broken. It’s also supposed to be that way. That’s your punk.

    If, on top of that, it’s also a buggy mess, that has nothing to do with punk. It’s just bad. I don’t know whether that’s the case here. I do think it’s trite to dismiss concerns about quality as “sad”. If you know your game is a buggy mess and don’t have the resources or inclination to do anything about it, you could at least say so.

  40. Matzerath says:

    The Path is just what I was hoping it to be. It’s drenched in melancholy, with wonderful art design and music, its dark theme amusingly contrasted by atypical video-game trappings — the hazy ‘goals,’ the score tally at the end. It is dancing around a (slightly) hidden theme that most people would probably not want to play a video-game about — at least not on the emotional end.
    It reminds me of City of Lost Children a bit, and an old short story by Joyce Carol Oates: ‘Where are you going, where have you been?’
    In short, I find it a worthy 10 dollars spent.
    (By the way, out of curiosity: Is buying The Path directly from their site a better Euro rate than the notoriously crappy Steam conversion?)

  41. Pags says:

    If the tape doesn’t actually work, that’s a completely separate problem. If it’s got chewing gum stuck to it which gums up your tape player, that’s actual crap, not art.

    Were this to be an effective comparison, the chewing gum would have to be stuck to every CD/cassette/whatever the band put out, which would imply intention to stop the tape working. Which might also imply some sort of statement. Here though, it’s just an unfortunate side-effect.

  42. Sciere says:

    Yes, The Path is broken and it is meant to be that way. There are no game-stopping bugs of obvious “flaws” that hinder gameplay or progress in any way, it challenges you to break free of the gameplay mainstream titles have conditioned you to – to get into control as quickly as possible.

    Most of the game you are an active spectator who is allowed to weigh in at the key moments. And your decisions lead to horrible consequences. They managed to put more atmosphere into the first five minutes of the game than I got out of BioShock or any other title I can think of.

    It’s a tabula rasa in gameplay design, ignoring about everything a design handbook would recommend. It forces you to slow down and step back. I can relate to the criticism of The Graveyard, but not to the poetry in this. It’s pure, tragic and gripping beyond belief …

  43. Fat Zombie says:

    Meh. Although this sounds like a good thing to release, I know that it’s not the kind of thing for me. I think that this is more suitably classed as ‘interactive art’ rather than an actual ‘game’, in my mind.

  44. Rob F says:

    I’m not going to argue with your own personal view of the game Sciere, each to their own and all that but:

    “There are no game-stopping bugs of obvious “flaws” that hinder gameplay or progress in any way”

    comes across as a bit Iraqi Minister Of Information because it clearly is bugged in parts. Especially the parts where you’re meant to weigh in on events but the game can glitch out and leave you unable to do so for long periods of time.

    If that’s not hindering progress, I don’t know what is.

  45. Putter says:

    This may sound like a wierd question, but how is this game controlled? Is it KB+Mouse or just one of the two. I ask because I’m looking to buy a game on Steam this weekend because my one wrist is hurting again and I need a game that can be played with one hand.

  46. Rob F says:

    Either keyboard, mouse or joypad. Not a combination thing, so you should be alreet.

  47. Sciere says:

    Rob F: it’s a design choice, not a bug. Calling it a “glitch” makes it look as an oversight in the programming, while it’s deliberate.

  48. Rob F says:

    And getting stuck in scenery was a deliberate design choice too, I suppose?

  49. Meat Circus says:

    I just played it through.

    My head hurts, but in a good way. :(

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