A Winding Path is a recent indie game from Three Eyed Games and publishers Flynn’s Arcade. It is a hand-drawn, side-scrolling story-driven experience. While it offers a variety of puzzles and a great story, the hand-drawn art style is the standout part of it.
You start with a tutorial of sorts in a small village, suffering from a drought. Even the scarecrow you first encounter is desperate to have water again. You are asked by an older woman in the village to please bring back the rain. From there, you go on a small quest to try to get a lyre, which allows you to summon rainclouds.
This first part allows you to get a feel for how the game will go, so while it’s not a traditional tutorial, that is the purpose it serves. You learn the basic mechanics, get your first larger puzzle, and even a side one. By the time you are finished, you will be familiar with how things control and the general idea of how to play. Finally, you bring rain back to the village and then move on to the core game.
The core game is much like the first part; you must bring water back to the fishing village. However, it includes with it the message of unity. The ocean has dried up, and it is believed to be connected to the disconnect of the people.
You are tasked with organizing a great feast that will bring everyone together and hopefully summon the rains again. To do so, you have to do favors, often including solving puzzles or fetching items, for people in the fishing village and the main city.
Gameplay is fairly straightforward. While it is not so easy to be boring, the game is extremely approachable for people with all skill levels. There are a few puzzles and a lot of wandering around to find things and talk to people. There are also special items, dewdrops, that can be collected. I was unable to find them all in my first playthrough, so going back for them does add replayability. There is also no death in the game, instead, you will flash back in and get a message like “oops” if you accidentally do something wrong.
I had a few moments where I felt a little stuck and struggled to figure out the next step. However, in the end, everything was simple enough that with experimentation, I was able to work it out. I liked that there was enough challenge that I had to work things out, but appreciated that I could complete it without much stress.
While the gameplay is decent, where the game really shines is the art, music, and story. A hand-drawn game with stick figures as characters may not seem like it, but this game is lovely. The simplicity of it really serves the purpose because the parts with extra detail truly stand out. The game is beautiful, and I love the art direction. The music is also wonderful. Like the art, it is largely simplistic and minimalistic but then will have pops of something more that stand out. The lyre is great to listen to, and the way music is integrated directly into gameplay is excellent. A Winding Path is a charming artistic game.
The story is also solid. The village and the city are divided and lack trust in each other. The very idea of doing a feast to bring them together makes most characters scoff. As you go through the steps to make it happen, though, you begin to reveal that a lot of what caused these divides are misunderstandings or bad actors trying to keep the two fighting. The message of bringing the people together to restore the balance in nature is not new but is well done in this game and a message worth repeating. It makes for a touching experience and good motivation to see what will unfold next.
So bottom line? I truly enjoyed this game and would recommend it to a variety of people. If you like a story-driven experience, it’s a quick and enjoyable game with beautiful art and music. I had a lot of fun with it, and think it’s a great little game. Most people can probably finish it within a few hours, but it is well worth the experience. Even for people who aren’t big gamers, this game is decent and, again, not overly challenging. It was a delightful treat.
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