Sunday, 27 November 2011

The Path: Game Design Review

The Path is a horror which I recently mentioned in my recent games are art guest post which I found I hadn't yet reviewed!

So here's my impression of The Path. I'm a bit divided over whether to recommend the game. let me explain why.

Design wise the first problem with the game is that it doesn't tell you how to accomplish the 'goal'. Now I had read about the game before hand in the reviews and knew that I had to leave the Path to truly experience the game. The first time I chose a character, I spent about 40 minutes trying to figure out what to do. I knew I had to wander off the path but I didn't realise what to do to trigger the 'bad' endings.

Finally I figured out that to do this you have to go to a location and NOT move for several seconds to interact with your character's personal 'wolf'. Of course, this required lots of unlearning as most games will have an 'action' button to allow you to interact with objects in the environment but the game never explicitly tells you to NOT move. I wasted nearly an hour on this. Once I figured that out, progress was fairly quick.

Every girls losing' story goes like this:
1) You wander off the path
2) You can visit or discover various significant important places (this is optional)
3) You have to meet your personal wolf
4) You awaken just in front of grandma's house tired and go through grandma's house, what you see depends on how many optional places you discovered.
5) The girl meets defeat.

The entire game is metaphorical and atmospheric and well crafted in that respect. However, aside from the annoying 'not moving' learning issue which I think really needs to be explained better, the game part of this game is a bit too easy and not very exciting at all. It feels more like a collection of short horror mini-episodes combined with a bit of item hunting then a proper game. Rather than exploring possibilities, there is really only one 'Path' in the game.

From a gaming critic's point of view the atmosphere is top notch,the sound and graphics convey exactly the way it should be on the other hand I feel that the artistic nature almost feels like a step back in many ways. No real dialogue, implied characterisation, spooky effects and a distinct lack of interaction.

As a gamer, rather than revelling the interactive nature of the game medium it seems to try and live up to the expectations of the 'art world' rather than trying to aspire and utilise the best tools of the medium (interactivity). I think games like Gabriel Knight, American Mcgee's Alice, Grim Fandango, Indigo Prophecy, the Thief series and the Resident Evil service do the genre a better service in this respect.

For me The Path although good in some respects feels like a warning sign to game developers: "Don't try to live up to art for the sake of art". Otherwise, what you get is a game with good animation, good atmosphere but limited shallow gameplay. Weighing your other available games, the normal price of The Path of $10 seems quite expensive for a game you could finish in less than 3 hours compared to other horror games like Amensia: The Dark Descent.

I have also played the other two games by the creators; The Graveyard and Fatale and they pretty much suffer from the same problem as this game. I'll probably go into detail into them in follow up post.

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