The Path of Motus is a game which is much deeper and impactful than you would first imagine when looking at any of the screenshots or pre-release trailers. It focuses on real-life worries and concerns about being held back in life from pursuing your dreams and having others beat you down with cruel words and negativity. Developed by a two-man studio, MichaelArts, The Path of Motus offers two ways to complete your journey, you can either take the easy route and become no better than the bullies, or take the high road in life and make your journey harder, yet more satisfying. What kind of person are you?
As mentioned above, The Path of Motus is surprisingly a rather deep game if you obtain all the notes, take in the messages it is giving out, and take on board what is being portrayed through this rather cute indie puzzle-platformer. You play the role of our protagonist, Motus, a young goblin who lives within a village with other goblins who have been trapped in a mysterious forest for generations. Every single goblin who chooses to venture out into the forest becomes defeated and they always return back to the village depressed and shot down.
However, Motus isn’t the giving up type, he perseveres and aims to make it through the forest as he tackles every obstacle which is thrown at him, builds bridges across obstacles which appears to block his progression, and takes on all of the negative goblins who wish to hurl abuse and insults at him as he aims to move forward. As we play, Motus progresses through various eras as he grows up and encounters new obstacles, goblins he once referred to as friends have moved on and forgot about him, allies become enemies, dreams become nightmares and bypassing obstacles becomes hard as you try and complete your journey.
Now, take the entire premise of the game and flip it on its head and you get a story of real life. The Path of Motus is a metaphorical game about life and your journey as you aim to follow your dreams through the ‘forest’ of real life. You’re constantly encountering people who want to shoot you down, tell you how useless you are, abuse you, call you names, fire so much negativity at you that you doubt your own potential and may even give up on your dreams completely. As I played, I started to relate to the game in so many ways, to the point that I felt connected with Motus as he was ‘defeated’ by so many of the bullies.
To emphasise this point, Motus and the other goblins don’t ‘attack’ in the usual way, you’re defeated by words. That’s right, the other goblins will fire words at you such as “Stop!”, “Nope!”, and “Give Up!”. To which Motus counters with “Hey!”, “Yeah!, and “Why?”. All ‘attacks’ are colour coordinated, so if the enemy is about to say “Stop!” (which is red) then you counter it with “Why?” (which is also red”). Same colour responses block the attacks and different coloured ones simply allow the enemies words to break your barrier and hit you. Later on, in the game, you also gain access to another character and the game allows both characters to act as ‘shields’ for each other as they defend the other from harmful words with their own unique comebacks.
Okay, let’s throw a question into the review – what does Vampyr and The Path of Motus have in common? No, you can’t drink blood and go around attacking the undead in this game! Don’t be silly! Both games are built upon moral choices and it adjusts the game’s difficulty accordingly. Just like with Vampyr, if you choose to retaliate and ‘defeat’ the bullies with your own words then you will be able to progress much easier, yet how are you any different to the bullies? If you choose ‘the high road’ and you opt to complete all 24 combat sections by skillfully avoiding conflict and ensuring nobody gets hurt, then you will undoubtedly make the game more difficult for yourself. However, just like with life, avoiding conflict and choosing to not react to bullies and continuing on with your dreams and aspirations isn’t an easy task, yet the rewards for doing so are much more fulfilling and satisfying.
So, which path will you take? The path of the person who ‘fights back’ because it’s easy to do so and offers you a quick way through, or will you take The Path of Motus and opt to overcome each obstacle without conflict and hurt?
Speaking of obstacles, you won’t only be tasked with these 24 combat sections as you traverse through the forest of life, you’ll also encounter 29 physical obstacles. These are represented in-game as holes, barriers and doors. Just like in real life – as you grow up you will often hit roadblocks or issues which you must learn to overcome – in The Path of Motus, the developer has opted to represent these in the form of logic-based puzzles which are actually really fun and quite challenging to complete. I imagine it’s because not everything can be overcome as easily as shouting at it or just walking by.
The puzzles themselves are a form of a logical line-drawing game, as you can see above. Each square must have a number of connections sprouting from it, the number of which is within the square/circle/hexagon. Squares can only join at the four angles, as can hexagons, but the circle can join to anything in all eight directions. The only rules here are that you can only have the number of connections specified, hexagon linked items can’t be joined (so two hexagons can’t be on the same circuit), and later on in the game, you’ll have to ensure every single object is connected to the same circuit.
I really enjoyed these puzzles, it’s actually one of the reasons the game stood out to me when I first saw the images online. It’s a unique aspect which I’ve not seen before, they offer a decent challenge, and they are satisfying to complete as you know the end result is allowing Motus to get one step closer to his goal in life.
The Path of Life:
As I stated above, one of the common ‘points’ that people will most likely make about this game is its length. The Path of Motus initially took me just over an hour to complete as I travelled through all three age ranges and bypassed all the bullies by defeating them with my words. Upon completing the game, I jumped back in and played the game a second time in order to complete the newly unlocked harder puzzles and aimed to bypass all combat areas by working out how to proceed with no conflict in mind. This process took me about another hour – so within around two hours, I had the platinum trophy. Was I disappointed that the game had a short length? Not really. I felt the game lasted as long as it needed too, it got me thinking about things and it subtly passed on various messages through its collectables and the narrative which really hit home and were instantly relatable.
Speaking of collectables, I almost forgot about these! There are 22 notes scattered around the game for you to find, well, I guess it’s only 20 as the last two are the ‘with thanks to..’ and a special message. The other notes have been left behind by his father who had also tried to brave this forest in that past. However, your father works on the farm and doesn’t appear to have any signs of goals or aspirations. Just why did your father give up on his dreams and is his father an indication of what Motus would become if he let the depression and abuse overcome him?
The notes summed up my life at certain points in many ways, the game was basically describing feelings I’ve had before, especially the ones around how one-day things just suddenly change and you give in to the pressure and simply ‘comply’ for the sake of it. One such note begins:
I feel like a cog in the machine, every day is the same routine. It feels like yesterday we played shows every weekend, then “life happened.” The pay is great here, and I love learning about the machines (the elevators are always fun), but if the money wasn’t an issue would I still be here?
Again, instantly relatable to many of us I imagine. Seriously, the games whole hidden meaning and narrative pushed through these collectables, interactions, and visuals are really well done and interesting to uncover.
Behind the game:
If you’ve read any of my reviews before then you’ll know I usually talk about the audio and graphics before I end them. However, with The Path of Motus, I thought I would be different and talk about the two developers as one was the designer, musician, programmer and writer; with the other being the artist and animator. So I feel it’s only fitting as it basically splits out into audio and visuals perfectly!
Michael Hicks is the creator of The Path of Motus as well as another title called Pillar which you may have also heard of. He created The Path of Motus back in 2012 under the name of Sententia, along with Goncalo below, at a promotional event called “Indie Games Uprising” on the Xbox 360. Since then, they went on to create Pillar and then decided to come back and remake Sententia. Due to the number of changes and improvements made to Sententia, they renamed it “The Path of Motus” and here we are today.
Michael was behind all of the programming, writing and music as well. This is rather unique as even with smaller indie developers, they usually outsource or purchase music off third parties for their games. Because it was all made in-house, you can tell a lot of love and care has gone into everything you both see and hear as you play the game. You can even purchase the soundtrack over on Bandcamp (or PSN) if you wish, there is even the option to pick up other albums Michael has done such as the music for Pillar.
One last thing about Micheal – If you head over to his YouTube channel (and subscribe) which is here: http://youtube.com/michaelartsmedia – he has done a 12 part set of tutorials on how to create your first 2D game using FNA. Not many indie developers will take you behind the scenes like this and show you effectively how their game was made! Go check him out, drop him a few likes and subscribe. You can also follow him on Twitter HERE and check out his site HERE
Goncalo Antunes was behind all of the amazing artwork and the animations in The Path of Motus, Sententia, and Pillar. Goncalo resides in Portugal but for the final six months of development within The Path of Motus, he flew over to the USA and stayed with Michael as they worked on the game – as it would be a lot easier than relaying over social media and email I imagine! Looking back, at the above YouTube channel, at the original game before the re-branding and remake, you can tell both creators have come far and taken on board so much with the new direction for the visuals within The Path of Motus.
The overall game has a ‘simple yet detailed’ look about it, with an art design not that different to running an old SNES ROM with a 2xsal shader applied on top of it to make all the colours and edges more rounded. Yet, if you look close enough into the backgrounds and the static environments then you’ll see the amount of detail gone into some of these areas. I’m also really happy they remodelled the bridge puzzles so that the numbers are easier to read over the original design of the game!
So, what did I think of The Path of Motus overall then? Personally, I thought it was a great little indie game which really got me thinking about things. Sure, I know a lot of trophy hunters will buy this for the 1-2 hour trophy (much less if they rush through it with a guide for the puzzles), but those who purchase it and actually interact with the various NPCs, read the notes, understand whats going on, and takes the time to realise you’re not playing a game about a goblin, will get so much more out of it. I wasn’t bothered about its short playtime either – it felt a decent length for the message it was trying to get across. If I could change anything then I would maybe add some voice acting (like in the trailer) and possibly add a few more puzzles or segments like the school one with the shields as I enjoyed those. I know that totally contradicts my previous comment but still – the game is a decent length but I wouldn’t complain if it was a little longer.
The Path of Motus is a short game which cleverly provides a metaphor for life behind a game about a goblin making his way through a forest. If given a choice, will you opt to retaliate against the bullies and thus become one yourself as you breeze through your miserable life, or will you combat your obstacles without conflict and follow your dreams? As with life, the right path isn’t necessarily the easy one. Along the path, you will come across walls, pits, and doors which must be overcome by using your brain and solving one of the many logic-based puzzles thrown at you. Through the clever use of the narrative, the music and the visuals, The Path of Motus delivers a story which so many of us can relate to and take inspiration from.
10% of all game sales will be donated to Cybersmile
The Path of Motus£11.99
- The combination of the literal and metaphorical meanings work really well
- The soundtrack and artwork are great for a small indie title
- I really enjoyed the puzzles you were given
- The message the game gets across is relevant to everyone, both old and young
- Quick and easy platinum for those interested - plus EU and NA are seperate trophy lists
- The game is a little short (about 2 hours to platinum)
- I would have liked a few more puzzles or maybe more 'combat' segments with multiple characters like we did in the school - as I really enjoyed those
- Some of the jumps are pixel-perfect if going for the non-combat route, although I imagine that's intentional as the right route isn't always the easiest