The Let's Play Archive

Pathways Into Darkness

by HB

Part 1

As we remember from a recent thread, before Bungie Software made the awesome sci-fi first-person shooter series named Halo, they made an equally awesome sci-fi first-person shooter series named Marathon. But before they made Marathon, they made a bizarre and flawed yet still awesome fantasy first-person adventure-shooter hybrid named Pathways Into Darkness in 1993. In this thread I will play it for you.

I don't have a torrent to post mostly because it only runs on pre-Intel Macintoshes. I get the feeling those are pretty rare in the Games community, and setting up emulators for them is a pain in the ass. If you want it, it's available from the Mac section of the Underdogs.

Let's see what the back of the box says first:

Pathways Into Darkness takes place in an ancient pyramid on the Yucatan Peninsula. As a member of a secret special forces team, you have been dropped by parachute near the site of a pre-history asteroid impact. During your parachute drop you are separated from the rest of your team. Unable to locate them, you assume they are lost, or worse, and embark on your mission to save the world, alone.

Sounds intriguing.

The manual has a great deal more backstory:


The alien projection appeared in the early Spring of 1994, flickering suddenly into existence deep within the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. The hologram of the Jjaro diplomat interrupted, quite deliberately, an important briefing of the President by his senior military staff. It told them they had eight days to save the world.

No one outside the six men present that day knows exactly what was said in the hours that followed; only that a Special Forces Team, armed to the teeth, was immediately afterwards ordered to paradrop near the site of an ancient asteroid impact in the Yucatan Peninsula.


Sixty-four million years ago, a large extra-terrestrial object struck the Earth in what would later be called the Yucatan Peninsula, in southeastern Mexico. The dust and rock thrown up by the resulting explosion caused enormous climactic changes in the ensuing years, and many of the Earth's species became extinct during the long winter that followed.

The object itself was buried thousands of feet below ground, its nearly two kilometer length remarkably intact. It remained there, motionless, for thousands of years before it finally began to stir - and to dream. It was a member of a race whose history began when the Milky Way was still a formless collection of dust and gas - a powerful race of immortals which had quickly grown bored of their tiny universe and nearly exterminated themselves in war.

This particular being, whose name no human throat will ever learn to pronounce, was part of the cataclysmic battle that formed Magellanic Clouds, billions of years ago. It died there, or it came as close to dying as these things can, and drifted aimlessly for millions of light years before striking the Earth.

The heat of impact liquefied the rock around it, which later cooled and encased the dead god's huge body far below ground. As it began to dream, it wrought unintentional changes in its environment. Locked deep beneath the Earth, strange and unbelievable things faded in and out of reality. Vast caverns and landscapes bubbled to life within the rock, populated by horrible manifestations of the dead god's dream.

Only during the last few centuries has the god begun to effect changes on the surface of the Earth. Grotesque creatures have been sighted deep in the trackless forest of the Yucatan, and strange rumors of an ancient pyramid - which is neither Aztec nor Mayan - in the same area have been circulating in the archaeological community since the early 1930's.

The god is awakening.


Though the god can never be killed, the projection of the Jjaro dignitary told us here on Earth that if we acted quickly we could prevent it from awakening. To do this, however, someone was going to have to carry a low-yield nuclear device down to the god's body and detonate it there. This would not only stun the dreaming god, but further bury it under millions of tons of rock.

The Jjaro claim to have made an extensive survey of the Earth's technology, and maintain that this is the only way. More permanent measures will by taken by the aliens themselves (who are already on their way) when they arrive in two and a half Earth years.

The aliens have provided us with a great deal of intelligence on the strange pyramid in the Yucatan, and the catacombs below it. This information has been compiled into this briefing, and has been presented to you and every other member of the assault team. Good luck.


Ryu'Toth, the Jjaro representative, appeared via hologram in the Pentagon at 1500 hours (3:00PM) on Thursday May 5, 1994. You and the rest of the assault team will be dropped from a C-151 transport over the Yucatan shortly after 0200 (2:00 AM) on Sunday May 8. This leaves five days before the dreaming god awakes, sometime in the afternoon on the following Friday.

In addition to weapons and ammunition, your squad of eight men will carry a small, low-yield nuclear device and three radio beacons. The bomb must be placed at the lowest point you are able to descend into the god's tunnels. Detonation can be delayed as long as forty-eight hours by the bomb's timer, but should under no circumstances occur after 1400 (2:00 PM) on Friday.

Upon returning to the surface, triggering any one of the radio beacons will signal the extraction team to pick you up. Ten minutes are required from the time the extraction signal is given to the time the helicopters arrive at the pyramid. Allow an additional ten minutes for the helicopters to reach minimum safe distance from the explosion of the nuclear device you have been given.

Game Introduction

Unfortunately things don't go quite as planned. During the jump from the C-151 your primary parachute fails, and you are able to pull the reserve only moments before crashing through the forest canopy toward the ground.

Two hours later you awake, unharmed except for a few bruises, to realize that most of your equipment is missing or damaged (fortunately someone else jumped with the nuclear device). The muzzle of your M-16 is bent just enough to render it useless, and the bag holding the spare clips for your Colt .45 is lost in the deep jungle underbrush. About the only things which didn't break were your flashlight and survival knife.

You finally reach the pyramid, by foot, at a little after 0600 (6:00 AM). The rest of your team must have entered nearly four hours ago. Armed only with a knife, and the knowledge contained in this briefing, you follow them ...

Standard adventure-game fare so far: We have an imminent crisis that only you can solve coupled with a reason you don't have any backup or equipment worth a damn at the start of the story.

Well, here goes nothing:

Like a lot of older games, Pathways uses its platform's native interface as a HUD rather than running a full-screen custom jobbie. This is approximately the default size- back then it was important to keep the 3D window small so that you'd get more than 10FPS out of it.

In the upper left we have the World View. We're on a level named Ground Floor, standing in a stone hallway near some bones. I'm using the updated PowerPC version of Pathways that supports floor and ceiling texture maps; in the very first version of the game they were just gradients. In the lower left is the Messages window, which mostly provides useless commentary on your game. Since we've just started, we get the credits. The message window also has a time display that runs for the most part in real time (except when resting) and 3 buttons which I'm going to ignore since there are keys that also perform those actions. In the upper right is our character/status window. I've just started an Untitled Game, I'm at full health, and I have no power, treasure, points, or altitude yet. I am, however, an expert in the use of the M-16 Rifle (don't have one), the Colt .45 Pistol (have one, but it's empty), and Melee Combat, which fortunately includes the one weapon I do have

We tried to chicken out and turn around, but we're stuck- that door will not open until the end of the game.

May as well start exploring...

Beyond the hallway are columns, rocks, and more bones. And then-

Ooo! Things!

If we walk over the blue rune, "You see a strange blue rune." appears in the Messages window (told you it was useless). It doesn't seem to do anything else.

The small item near the center is a clip of ammo, but not for the Colt .45

Judging from the dead guy's uniform and complete lack of flesh, he's been here for a while. Let's plunder his corpse.

Well, at least we have a gun now. Unfortunately in Pathways ammo is more precious than gold, so the gun is strictly for emergencies.

We've gathered a tidy collection of items by now, and this is an adventure game, so let's familiarize ourselves with the equipment with the Examine button:

The automap in this game is an actual item in your inventory. If you drop it, the automap stops working

If you take off the digital watch, the time display in the Messages window disappears. There's no disadvantage to wearing it, and we're supposed to be on a deadline, so let's keep it on.

Well thank goodness for that. Turning off the flashlight has a noticeable effect on the world (pretty snazzy graphics for 1993):

So let's leave it on for now, but remember that we're able to do this.

There's nothing interesting about the canvas bag (those are the exact words the game uses, and it's true), so I didn't bother taking a screenshot of it.

I guess this guy really paid attention in military history at Special Forces school.

The Walther we found came with a clip with 3 rounds missing. Perhaps the dead guy went down fighting.

What's this guy doing here anyway? The manual says that the CIA is aware of a German expedition in the late 1930's, which was looking for a "secret weapon" and never returned. Perhaps we'll find more information about this later.

Moving on, we find that there are 2 hallways. Now, Pathways is the sort of old-school adventure game where it's possible to waste hours and/or permanently screw yourself through bad decisions (most importantly, there is a finite supply of ammo in this section of the game), so I'm going to choose to go right because it's the correct path.

One of the bad things about Pathways is how absurdly slow the player walks. It will take me nearly five seconds to cross this room. You'd think a trained soldier on a mission to save the world would be able to pick up the pace a little.

The red thing on the floor is a save point. In the distance is a ladder to another level. Like any good adventure game, Pathways has completely free level travel.

The next level is named Never Stop Firing. Let's hear it for gonzo 90's gaming

If we walk forward a little, we'll meet some new friends:

These guys are called Headless. They look like they're wearing santa hats at this distance, but that's a giant tongue sticking out of a mouth on top of its body. The green thing is a wad of goo that it just spat at me while I was taking this screenshot


Yes, yes they did. And it hurt. We've also earned 1 point (from the Walther P4) and climbed 2.7 meters up the pyramid.

While resting time passes at seven minutes a second. You can also rest while at full health, in which case you will rest indefinitely until you cancel it. This will actually be important later.

Once we're ready to go again, let's see exactly where the hell we are:

Three hallways lead away from the save rune. Which one should we go down next?