The Demoman: The Path

This week the Demoman turns his steely, one-eyed gaze on the demo of The Path, the indie art-horror game based on fairy tale of Little Red Riding Hood. Your goal is to reach grandmother's house, and the instructions are simple: stay on the path. Naturally, no one is going to stay on the path, since no one wants to visit their grandmother, because she's boring, she smells kind of funny, and she doesn't even have an Xbox.

It's simple to play: just steer a young woman around, and if you see something you'd like to interact with, stop controlling her and see what she does. For instance, as I start wandering around, a bird lands near me. I lay off the controls and a moment later the young woman chases the bird, which flies away. Another example of interaction comes some two hours later when I turn the game off in anger because that bird is about the only goddamn thing there is in the demo to interact with.

Graves but no zombies. Strike one, The Path. Strike one.

Don't get me wrong, there are all sorts of weird things to find in the woods. Following some smoke in the distance, I come across a ruined theater. The camera view shifts as I walk onto the stage, which seems to indicate that something will happen. Nothing does, and the girl, left to her own devices, runs back to the path. A creepy graveyard in another area promises some scares, but again, nothing happens, and what doesn't happen doesn't even not-happen in a scary fashion. What appears to be an abandoned playground seems ripe for spookiness, but, in an exciting twist, nothing happens. Then -- suddenly -- nothing else happens, either.

If I were playing a mainstream game like Fallout 3, I would have shut the game off long ago, but this is an indie art game demo, and declaring that an indie art game demo sucks is a dangerous proposition. Does it suck? Or is it "ground-breaking" and "compelling" but I simply don't get it? That's the question I wrestle with as I keep "playing" for long, long hours. It's like this art installation I saw once, which was just some white walls and a spotlight shining on a bag of kitty litter. Sure, it seems like it sucks, but it's art, so before you can say it sucks you have to make sure it's not actually brilliant.

Hello, taxi service? I need a ride to Mirror's Edge, please.

I'm pretty sure this demo just plain sucks, though. At one point I spot a flower, walk over to it, and let go of the controls. The young woman picks it up, and a notification comes onscreen as she collects the flower: 1 of 144. Huh. For all its indie shunning of typical game mechanics, The Path still gives us a standard collection quest. Like that's gonna get me to spend any more time in this demo than I already have?

Anyway, 98 flowers later, here is a complete list of other things that happened while playing this demo.

1) I found a pay telephone, which I used, which restarted the demo.
2) A glitch got me stuck in the playground, forcing me to restart the demo.

That's it. In a fit of boredom, I even went to grandmother's house, which immediately ended the demo.

Stare at this picture for two hours and you'll get the full demo experience.

Of course, after quitting in anger, I immediately bought the full game for $10. I had to. I needed to get something for all that time I just wasted, even if it meant paying for it. You don't wait for a bus for two hours and then not pay to get on when it finally arrives. Maybe it's a brilliant demo after all, creating a void so compelling and ground-breaking in its utter emptiness that I throw money at it just to get back something for my time served. As for the rating, normally any demo that gets me to buy a game is an automatic eight sticky bombs, but I think I'm going to be compelling and just leave it empty.

Download The Path demo on FileShack.