Let’s Make Bad Decisions in The Path (Plus: Contradiction!)

The Path, 2009

Thanks for reading the plasterblog, where we always keep you up to date on the latest gaming trends. Anyway, here’s The Path, a game from 2009 I picked up in a bundle.

Tale of Tales, self-prescribed “purveyors of beauty and joy,” is a game developer duo that seeks to defy the traditional game design template and create interactive works of art, inspiring reactions which range from mild amusement to vengeful battalion of penis fawns.

One of their earliest works is an experimental horror re-imagining of Little Red Riding Hood called The Path. Six girls from the big city are sent by MOTHER to die one by one, alone, in the woods.

Before their abstract and surrealist demise, however, they must journey through those woods, which are littered with mysterious relics of their past and symbols which represent their fears and vices alike. Then they look at these objects and come up with deep poetry about them. Then they come back to life at the end. Maybe! What actually happens? You decide! Good luck coming up with a consistent metaphor, though, because one of the girls’ wolves is a cloud man.

Putting aside the enigma of why game form is challenged while books can be books and films can be films, not everyone takes equally well to the game genre with no apparent goal but to encounter novel stimuli, a phenomenon which is usually a logical and implicit side effect of most games. Picture Yume Nikki, only 3D, with six main characters and one central location, a large forest with randomly generated layout.

How could one not enjoy it? Just check out The Path’s extended feature list!

  • Make bad choices!
  • Discover a boot!
  • Talk to a white guy!
    • unless he is a black guy?!
      • Sometimes these issues aren’t just black and white.
        • Wait shit
          • What is black, really? Aren’t we all black in this crazy world?
  • Knock a shopping cart over!
  • Put the shopping cart right-side up!
  • Collect shiny objects!
  • Give up!
  • Inspect a telephone pole!
  • ????
  • Steam cards!

Actually though, perhaps solely because I was sick and weary at 3am when I binged this, I found The Path to be mostly enjoyable. It requires less than five hours for an ordinary run, though for completionists there are 144 flower-like collectibles (initially the game was to be called “144”) and a bingo sheet of found objects throughout the forest.

Tale of Tales usually comes up with awesome eerie music, and The Path’s soundtrack is no exception. Violas will shudder! Beeps will boop! Girls will sing about wolves who eat you! All the stars are aligned.

The label of “horror” is a little generous, however — in the absence of a tangible threat, the creepiest aspect of the game is dealing with the unknown, which is either testament to me being an idiot or some well-constructed atmosphere.

Having little prior knowledge of the game, I first played as Ginger, the “tomboy Red” in a jumper and Square Enix belts, and uncovered the cemetery. The Path offers some frugal instructions, but these fail to mention a mysterious and ubiquitous NPC known as the Girl in White, who now stood at the base of the hill surrounded by tombstones.

A good portion of player feedback in The Path is these blurry, transparent overlays of objects and characters which fade in when you approach the respective interactables. The result looks very messy, and when used with models of people, unintentionally creepy. These are 2009 alternative indie game Blender models based on the figures of dolls, and they do not emote. There is no light in their eyes.

You can interact with a person or object by idling in front of them (<deep>sometimes the only way to do something is by doing nothing at all…</deep>), so Ginger approaches the GiW, whose neutral corpse face appears in full view. GiW walks up to Ginger and they embrace warmly for about ten seconds before letting go.

This was not a platonic embrace. These were definitely thirteen-year-old lesbian girlfriends. I go to investigate at the top of the hill where a nest had fallen from a tree. Then I come back down. GiW hugs Ginger again. Her face betrays not one semblance of emotion. I shuffle away and decide we should break up.

The Girl in White appears in a blurry overlay.

I assumed this was some tragic memory about only getting to see her lesbian girlfriend in secret at the local graveyard because of the patriarchy or something and that GiW was an NPC that would stay in that location. In reality, she follows you, so I am running around trying to avoid that graveyard when I realize in a panic there she is again, cartwheeling neutrally in a forest clearing.

Ginger was a really lousy first pick, too, because her interaction with GiW is the most personal, and when I arrive at Ginger’s character-specific location, the flower field with an unexplained telephone pole coming out of it, there’s another one. WHY. IS. THERE. ANOTHER. ONE. Ginger is having a secret lesbian affair with the Girl in Red, who is the Girl in White but in a red dress and presumably evil, because once you interact lovingly with her, you’re sent to Grandma Purgatory.

As I found out reading a review of the game straight after, GiW is supposed to be a helpful character who appears everywhere and whom you can follow if you’re lost in the forest. She is completely benign; her presence is just never addressed in-game and she just happens to have a tragic condition known as looks-like-a-corpse. Screw you, Tale of Tales. Graveyard hugs are in my TOP TEN FEARS.

Point is, the fear you might experience playing this “short horror game” dissipates as you realize there’s no real danger in the forest. When you send a little girl in the woods to confront her fears with zero instructions, there is a general unease in the atmosphere as though something terrible is about to happen, but ultimately nothing does, and suddenly The Path is about ethereal sightseeing.

Contradiction — Spot the Liar!, 2015

FMVs have made an unexplained comeback recently. Quick on the heels of Her Story comes Contradiction — Spot the Liar! a logical “all-video” whodunit game meant to be played with friends while connecting your computer to the TV. Since I don’t have friends, I played this game regular style, chuckling warmly at my brilliant deductive reasoning skills in the presence of no one.

In Contradiction, the mysterious drowning of local college student Kate Vine is initially ruled a suicide, but when traces of morphine are found at the crime scene, Inspector Fred Jenks of the Scotland Yard thinks there might be more to the story. His search leads him to investigate a business course called Atlas, but as rumors of their occult practices and the details of another student’s death emerge, things get a little complicated, which sounds like a a sentence one should end with an elipsis and a wink. … ;)

Contradiction’s production quality belies its limited crowdfunding budget of roughly $6,000 (that’s plus the creator’s own contributions, by the way). The main creative force, Tim Follin, clearly had a great deal of passion for the project, not only handling the cinematography, post-production, and soundtrack, but also learning to code for lack of sufficient funds to hire a programmer. Most of the game’s cast is really excellent, too, especially Rupert Booth, Paul Darrow, John Guilor, and *inhales* Anarosa De Eizaguirre Butler. Is that a real name?! Yeah that’s a real name.

Contradiction is not, as one might suspect from the name, a weird pseudo-science adventure where one “spots the lies” based on verbal and facial tics. Rather, everybody just looks suspicious all the time, not least of all your own character, Inspector Jenks, who sports such a wide menagerie of muscular wiggles and waggles it’s as though the vowels in his words were taking up residence in the shapes of his face. Don’t believe me? Check out this collage I made. Everybody loves collages, and I always bust them out when trying to prove a point.

Rupert Booth makes a variety of faces.

These are all from normal conversation by the way. Rupert Booth’s interrogative surrealism is a tour de force. Bonus points when he busts out the rocker symbol, which does not become less insane when given proper context.

The game’s only major flaw is its weak final scenes, as the team seemingly ran out of time and budget to address the many unsolved mysteries of Atlas and red herrings introduced throughout

Until then, grab those friends you may or may not have, get yourself a copy and get ready to tickle your brain and subsequently damage it with the

Contradiction Drinking Game!

  • Take a drink every time someone explains something insane with, “It’s part of the course.”
    • Two drinks if it’s Simon!
  • Take a drink every time James has no idea what you’re showing him.
  • Take a drink every time Ryan takes a drink.
    • Don’t forget to spill your glass when Ryan spills his glass.
  • Take a drink every time Paul says something incredibly ominous. Make sure one of your friends has the EMS on speed dial!
  • Take a drink every time Rebecca says to ask Ryan instead
  • Take a drink every time James does something suspiciously drug-related. “Decorative poppy” my ass.

Post Author: plaster

Winner of Miss Best Effort seven years and counting, Plasterbrain spends her days pretending to code, writing music, and third bullet point. Her top three first dates would be hunting for slugs, writing fanfiction about Hanzo, and a joint Powerpoint presentation. Oh wait wait wait! Can I add a fourth? The fourth is Neopets.

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