Not a drop of blood is spilled.
Not a drop. There is no nudity. There is no violence. There are no supernatural ghosts or zombies. Not a single word is spoken throughout the entire game. Yet The Path for PC and Mac has managed to land itself an ESRB rating of “M” for mature audiences only. Curious. Don’t you think?
The Path is based on several versions of the fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood. Players control the six sisters in their individual quests through the forest to get to their sick grandmother’s house. Robin, the youngest of the sisters, is too young to understand death. Rose, the second youngest, has a love for nature. Ginger is the tomboy. Ruby, the goth, seeks to be different by living on the wild side. Carmen, the second oldest, isn’t in control of her hormones. Scarlet, the oldest, is the most responsible, but pines for a more carefree life. The sisters are all different in personality, but they share two characteristics. They all wear red and they all have black hair.
Starting with each character, your mother gives you one direction, “Stay on the path.” Players then have a choice. Stay on the path and head directly to grandma’s house, or journey into the woods for an untold adventure. The straight and narrow or the long and winding road? Which would you choose?
Truth be told, I made it about 15 yards before I was distracted by some shiny objects deep in the woods. As you slowly saunter through the forest, you can collect different objects found in the woods which will slowly fill in the nebulous story of each character. I turned to head back the way I came but I never found the path again. There is no HUD. There is no map. But there are trees… lots and lots of trees.
The forest is infinite. Much like the maps of Pac Man or the sets on “The Flintstones.” There is no real beginning or end, but without a map to know where you are, navigation can be scary. The only way out of the woods, is to find the girl in white, who will take you by the hand and walk you back to the path, or you can find and confront each girl’s wolf, whether that wolf be literal or figurative depends on the girl you choose.
To explain any more would ruin the tale. So that’s all you’ll get out of me. What I can say is that The Path is easily one of the best $5 I’ve ever spent. Graphically, the game is no powerhouse, but it doesn’t need to be. It’s stylized visuals perfectly tell the tale the developers set out to share. And considering Tale of Tales is a ridiculously small development team, what they’ve accomplished is simply art.
The sound design is nearly flawless. There are times when the music gets repetitive, especially when you pick up your 25th flower or so. But when you reach grandma’s house, you’ll forget all about the few minor imperfections found in the woods. And to be honest, after I had my 2nd girl make it to grandma’s house, I didn’t want to send any more of them. I didn’t want to see what happened when I got there.
In the end, The Path is the perfect Elder-Geek game. This type of game won’t be appreciated as much by a younger audience. And even though there is no blood, gore, nudity or foul language, I’d have major reservations about playing this game in front of children. But it gets my wholehearted recommendation to any who considers themselves horror fans.
With all the big scary publishing companies out there gobbling up all the mid-sized ones, it makes me smile to know that small companies like Tale of Tales are creating original, thought invoking, and provocative games such as The Path. It keeps my faith alive in video games.