Reviews: The Path

There are many things in the forest...

Right at the beginning, you're given instructions: walk along the path and go to grandmother's house. Don't go anywhere else.

If you follow those instructions, you'll get a happy, and uninteresting, ending.

Where The Path opens up and becomes really interesting, is when you ignore the rules. There's a huge forest on the sides of the path. This isn't some scripted Call of Duty type experience, so go ahead and walk into the forest and explore. You have to go quite far into the forest before anything really interesting begins to show up, but when you do, the game's true genius begins to reveal itself. Long before Frog Fractions surprised players with a simplistic game that contained a far deeper one beneath the surface, The Path hid a lot of surprises in its forest.

Hidden within the massive, literally unending forest, are all sorts of points of interest. A lake. An abandoned playground. An abandoned theater with a stage. A piano. A small, broken-down fort. As you discover these things, your character will often offer thoughts in poetic verse, written on the screen - thoughts which are unique for each character. And it's not just locations: you'll sometimes encounter a strange girl dressed in white, who wanders the forest endlessly herself. You can follow her, or ignore her and go your own way.

The game's pacing contrasts sharply with what other games provide. You're not getting thrills around every corner, but instead, a forest that is believably huge, and it can genuinely take a long time to go from one place to another. It's realistic and adds tremendously to the atmosphere. And then there's the music, which is odd and unsettling. From time to time, a map shows up for only a few seconds, showing where you've been but not where you're going, though it can provide a hint as to how much of the forest you've covered.

Eventually, you find the "wolf". Sometimes literal, usually symbolic, the "wolf", if encountered, will trigger a series of horrifying events that ultimately result in your character's death. And then you pick the next character and have their unique experience.

There's nothing else out there like The Path, not even from the company that made it. It's a 2009 game, but give it a try; it's on Steam and really cheap.