Getting In Their Own Way: “The Path” and “The Void”

The Path and The Void are two very unique, very artistic games, both of which I wanted to explore and enjoy far more than I was ultimately able to. The Path made me laugh, what with the way it retells the tale of Little Red Riding Hood, and emphasizes that there’s only one rule: stay on the path. Of course, the game is roughly five minutes long if you listen, and your reward for following directions is a failure–the game wants and expects players to strike off on their own, into the surrounding wilderness, where they’ll encounter memory fragments, spectral little girls (previous victims of the wolf?), and creepy objects. Getting lost–which is all too easy to do–isn’t the issue, and there’s a built-in map that flares up from time to time to help guide you back to the main path if you appear to be totally stuck. Instead, the problem is the very sluggish pace of your character; it’s clear what The Path wants you to do (explore), but by making it so damnably difficult to move, let alone to navigate, it’s hard to muster up the energy to bother visiting grandmother’s house at all.

The Void also suffers from sluggish movement, but not to such extremes, and that’s not what’s really holding the game back. What’s broken here is that the game does a terrible job of explaining what exactly it wants you to do–while simultaneously putting you on a timer that penalizes you for poorly using your time. Yes, you can gather colors from the environment, and store them within your heart, and then when you leave a given area and return to the main world map (The Void), those colors will slowly filter through your body and become part of your palette, which you can then infuse back into the environment through the use of glyphs. Unfortunately, the game doesn’t appear to recognize some of the most basic glyphs used, which results in you wasting paint, which is a limited supply. It also fails to explain that the type of paint you use to rejuvenate trees makes a huge difference, with The Void changing based on the overall levels of color pouring within it. This is a brilliant mechanic, but given the difficulty of harvesting colors in the first place, let alone successfully infusing objects with them, the game becomes a randomized race against the clock, with your ability to succeed determined by the colors that appear, and the player’s ability to properly manage the heart-filtering of colors. (Some hearts are different sizes, but as you can’t empty a heart if you’re already filled with that color’s essence, you’ll occasionally be stuck creating a color that you don’t need or want.)

In both cases, simple gameplay choices–move-speed options, a clearer tutorial, easily navigable menus–would have better allowed the creators to tell their stories. Instead, they’ve stood in their own way, making these unique games too frustrating to recommend.

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