I have been in the “process” of reviewing Pathways for over a week now. That means I have been playing every day, completely straining my brain to beat this tile-based puzzler! Sadly, with other games piling up, I had to rely on the developer to help me get to end of the 75 levels. Fortunately, I don’t feel too guilty. This is a TOUGH game that should provide for many hours of gameplay, even for the experienced puzzle gamer!
There are a ton of puzzle games on the App Store, but it seems only recently that they are finally starting to
stray away from the standard “connect X amount of colored objects to make them disappear” gameplay. This a good thing! Pathways is the 3rd or 4th “tile-based” game that I have come across so far, which is good! These games are usually pretty tough, but offer a much different style of play.
The story in Pathways involves the main character (Tommy), and his friend (Eddie). They are both in the woods, when they stumble upon a portal. Doing what anyone would do, Eddie jumps right in, and is immediately captured by an evil dungeon master. I was pleasantly surprised to find an actual story, with cutscenes, in a game like this. Unfortunately, the cutscenes are barely animated, and revolve around speech bubbles from the characters. In fact, there isn’t even any music during cutscenes, which I found extremely bizarre, considering the music in this game is awesome. Most of the scattered scenes are fairly boring, but a couple made me chuckle. (Note to self: don’t develop a game on an empty stomach!)
The object of Pathways is simple. As you walk on gray tiles they disappear. The object is to reach the end doorway after removing all tiles from the level. There are tiles with numbers the tell the amount of times you can walk on them before they disappear, as well as moving tiles and portals. Unfortunately, that’s all the variety this game offers. I was expecting enemies, or maybe some other twists on gameplay. Having to do the same thing for 75 levels can get pretty tedious!
Luckily, the difficulty of Pathways shouldn’t be a huge issue, even for newcomers to games like this. Sure, it’s extremely hard, but when I really sat down and thought out a level, there wasn’t a single one I couldn’t
complete. (Although some took close to an hour!) Pathways allows you to choose from any past levels you’ve played, and has an excellent system that saves your exact place in the game if you receive a call, or jump back to the home screen. The only thing missing is some sort of hint or limited level-skip system. Without this, there’s definitely a chance at noobs getting frustrated.
The controls in Pathways are extremely simple. Basically, just click the direction you want Tommy to walk on the screen, and he’ll walk in that direction. For some reason, this game does not include the ability to touch and hold your finger on the screen to keep Tommy walking. I was surprised at this, especially after using this feature quite a bit in Loop Laboratory. Tapping over and over again constantly, especially when having to retry levels over and over again seems a bit much, but that’s not a deal breaker by any means.
The graphics in Pathways are pretty simple. The level backgrounds are good, but I would have liked to see more work put into polishing the actual animated sprites used. They seem to be set apart a bit from the rest of the scenery. As mentioned before, there is almost no animations in the cutscenes, and very little animation in the levels, which tends to give Pathways a dry feeling.
One of my biggest disappointments with this game is the complete lack of sound effects. There are literally none. Nothing for beating a level, passing from one portal to another, the doors opening when all tiles are done… zip. On the opposite side, the music is phenomenal! Several great catchy tunes randomly play for each level, and I didn’t find myself growing tired of them until I had put a good 7 hours or so into the game. Even then, they’re still good. Any song played over and over again gets old, no matter how good!
There is nothing technically wrong with the graphics, but it’s nothing to get too excited about. Level design is good, but animation appears lacking. You don’t need amazing graphics for a game like this, but I just feel like they could have been better.
Great music! No sound effects!? Not even in the cutscenes? The game is playable without sound effects, but feels almost unfinished in that respect.
The control is overall very responsive, although I would have liked to see the option to touch and hold to keep moving. I also would have liked to see a bit more variety to the levels (items, enemies, etc). Other than that, Pathways is addicting, even when getting stuck at various levels towards the middle/end of the game. Finally, even if it’s wasn’t portrayed in the best manner, it is nice to see a story-driven puzzle game!
With 75 levels, Pathways will absolutely twist your brain into pretzels! It took me several hours to get to level 30, then after that… well let’s just say I don’t want to publicly admit how long it took me to complete some levels! There are 5 save slots, and the ability to go back and play previously beaten levels. Although I don’t really see a reason to do this, since there is no speed run option or timer. Even so will be playing this game for a long time.
I give the developer huge props for attempting an actual storyline in a game like this, but unfortunately, with minimal animation, basic graphics, no sound effects, and generally dry writing, it just didn’t draw me in as much as it needed to to keep me playing the game for long periods of time. Luckily, with the great save features, Pathways is not a game you have to play in one sitting! It is a game that will keep you coming back, just for the fact that it’s going to take you a really long time to get past all the levels. 75 of them to be exact. Pathways is a monster of a puzzle game. While frustrating at times, it will continuously challenge and stretch you all the way to the last level. A worthy once-through game all puzzle gamers!
NOTE: At the time of this review, Pathways is on sale for $1.99 (from $4.99)!