The Path

 

The directions are simple: Little Red Ridinghood must follow the path to Grandmother’s House. No matter what, she must not stray from that path—except that you’re naturally expected to break that rule. That’s just the first twist in The Path, which uses a simple game framework to lead players through a skin-crawling experience. The player controls six Ridinghoods, from a young girl to a young woman, and their trips through the woods lead to scenes from their lives, and ultimately their deaths: Each one succumbs to a wolf, in scenes that range from straightforward to surreal.

Game-wise, the only challenge lies in slowly combing the woods for new scenes and memories. The discoveries are worth the effort. While the game’s themes of rebellion and rule-breaking are clear, the details of each girl’s fate are intriguingly abstract. And they’re supported by an aesthetic that starts off creepy and turns truly horrific by the time the player reaches Grandmother’s House. 

But is it a game, per se? Probably not, yet the game mechanics are key to its success. Collectible flowers keep the woods lively as you stumble from one destination to the next. Directional clues and a map that only surfaces for seconds at a time offer just enough orienting information. The glitches are distracting—the camera swings clumsily when you run, and the layered text and images don’t work against bright backgrounds—but they never ruin its impact.

Beyond the game: A built-in screenshot tool makes it easy to capture clues and study the text.

Worth playing for: The game’s symbols and events are open to interpretation—and the official forum hosts some of the most insightful, polite discussions you’ll find on a videogame forum.

Frustration sets in when: Even once you’re used to the game’s pace, making a final sweep of the woods to catch everything at the end of each chapter can feel tedious.

Final judgment: Not an example of “games as art,” so much as a work of art deftly supported by a game.