The Path of Motus may appear to be a light-hearted, puzzle-filled romp through a forest, but don’t be fooled: This is a game is confronting the difficult subject of bullying head on, and thing will get surprisingly serious and difficult before the end.
Told through a superb mix of art, music and indirect story telling, The Path of Motus not only tackles the concept of bullying, but tackles with balance and compassion, pushing you to empathy for the very antagonist whose words threaten to end your journey.
Title: The Path of Motus
Developer: MichaelArts (Michael Hicks and Goncalo Antunes)
Game Version: Final
Review Copy: Provided by Developer
Interface: Controller / Keyboard & Mouse
Available on on Steam, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One
Will you let other people stop you from pursuing your dreams? For generations, a village of goblins have been trapped inside a mysterious forest; anyone who attempts to leave returns hopeless and defeated. Determined to break new ground, a young goblin named Motus plans to build a series of bridges through the forest. However, his perseverance will soon be tested, as he meets bullies that use their own words to stop him. Will you find a way through life’s forest, or like others be lost in its depths with no will to continue?
Want to know more? Check out our IndieDev Interview with Developer Michael Hicks!
The Path of Motus begins rather simply and upbeat: you play as Motus, a young, 6 year old goblin living in The Forest. No one ever really leaves the forest, and Motus is driven to be the first one to do so. This means building bridges out of Motus’ dad’s old magical art supplies. While this story is full of hope and drive (like Motus), things quickly becomes more tense and depressed.
It takes Motus years to press on through the forest, and as he trudges forward into darker and scarier places, the crushing realities of adulthood, growing up and dealing with life and other people become characters in their own right; powerful hurdles Motus must try to overcome if he’s to see his dream through to the end. It’s not easy, even as the player; the game does a fantastic job of really making the bullying Motus is enduring hit home, and makes you feel a piece of that adversity too.
The story in The Path of Motus is told effectively not only through the monologue of Motus and his thoughts, but also through various notes, pictures, background environments and animations. The game really does a fantastic job of not just telling you what is going on and what the characters motivations are, but also showing it to you, both directly and subtlety. It’s one of The Path of Motus‘ greatest strengths, and is only further reinforced by the gameplay.
The Path of Motus could be best categorized as a puzzle platformerer and the game’s puzzles come in two varieties. First is the Bridge Making puzzles, which serve mainly as large puzzles marking significant forward progress, both in the game and in Motus’ narrative. They act kind of like chapter headings, framing Motus’ growth and advancement through the story. Second are what I’ll call “roadblock removing puzzles”. These are all set apart from the main path of the game and involve connecting nodes to each other, usually in a way that evokes some kind of emotion or idea. Both types of puzzles use the same mechanics, are easy to understand, yet can be quite challenging, and I was stumped for a good chunk of time on a couple of them.
There’s alos a third kind of puzzle in The Path of Motus: Combat. You’ll run into tons of other goblins, all to ready to act the pat of bullies and sling hurtful words at you. However, these word will hurt you, and you’ll need to counter them with your own words. This verbal combat system is one of the most stand out elements of The Path of Motus; incredibly inventive illustrative of the game’s message, while being simple to grasp and essentially involving fast paced color matching. It’s very well executed, even if it takes a little time to get used to, and I would have loved to see a bit more variety in the actual dialogue tied to it.
Granted, it might have taken me a bit of time to get used to the verbal combat system because the default mouse and keyboard controls are set up a little strangely. Sure, they work fine once you get used to them, but the layout was weird when I started.I definitely recommend using a controller when playing The Path of Motus: feels way more natural.
I should also mention that I did run into a few bugs and glitches while playing The Path of Motus. Occasionally platforms I am quite sure were meant to drop after standing on them for a moment would not drop, and enemy goblins would act in ways I’m fairly sure was not intended. Nothing was so serious that it stopped me from enjoying my play through of the game however.
Moving away from the gameplay, I need to praise The Path of Motus on it’s artistic direction. Like the story, the art and animation is happy and bright in the first third of the game,but then becomes more dark and serious as you progress. Yet, even as the ton changes, the style stays consistent, and everything feels like it’s very much part of the same story. It’s Incredibly well designed and very thematic, growing with Motus as he journeys through the forest.
However, the suprise stand out for me in playing The Path of Motus was the music and sound design. There are points where the music and the sounds will tell you to give up, put down your dream, and become a hurdle in their own right. It caught me off gaurd and really threw me for a loop when I first experienced it. It is an incredibly effective narrative tool.
The Path of Motus is full of interesting and innovative mechanics, but it is the message and purpose of this game that is most impressive. Michael Hicks and Goncalo Antunes have crafted a game that tackles the issues of bullying effectively and fairly, not just saying “Bullying is Bad”, but exploring the causes of bullying, and giving the player a reason to empathize with the bullies they encounter. And if that weren’t enough, Michael Hicks announced today that he has partnered with The Cybersmile Foundation, a non-profit that helps thousands of bullying victims each year through their support lines. 10% of all sales of The Path of Motus will be donated to Cybersmile.
When I was younger, I was interested in what made bullies act so aggressive. As time went on I began to befriend some of them, and learned they had either been bullied themselves earlier in life, had really bad family lives, or were just simply jealous of other people; I kept all of this in mind as I designed the game. As Motus gradually grows from a child to an adult, you’ll get to explore the motivations of the characters you meet, and I expect you’ll have some surprising moments in the process! I feel the discussion around this topic often ignores the root causes of bullying, so hopefully this game lets us see how our own actions potentially contribute to this issue. – Michael Hicks
A deluxe version that includes the game’s soundtrack is also available for $17.99 on PlayStation 4 and Steam.