Chilling and engaging, leaves you thinking
Year Walk is the story of a man on a spirit journey in hope to see visions of the future. Except it’s the 19th century, in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of the night, pitch black, snowing, he hasn’t eaten or drank anything for days, he doesn’t really know where he is going and the last person he saw before leaving told him not to go and said it wasn’t natural. Oh, and there are creatures from Swedish folklore that are out for blood, quite literally out for your blood.
Year Walk is scary. Sure, it has jump-scares, which is fair to say are pretty cheap thrills, but there is real fear in this game that comes from knowledge of what’s out there. The game pairs with a free companion app that gives you a primer on the creatures of true Swedish folklore (written by a real professor of Ethnology). It’s this knowledge of what creatures are capable of, coupled with the stark emptiness portrayed through the game’s minimalist audio design, that makes it scary.
Year Walk is a puzzle game. You have a panoramic view of your surroundings and you can scroll left and right along the path until you reach points where you venture forward and backwards. It’s a simple control scheme that works quite well and it is quite easy to maintain a mental map of where you are so you never really get lost.
The puzzles are very well designed and quite often have you using ios gestures in ways you rarely do in other games. Think Sword and Sworcery, rather than Fruit Ninja. The puzzles are at that ideal level of difficulty where you find yourself clueless at first but not frustrated to the extent that you’re compelled to consult a gamefaq. You will need to write things down. I guess, to be frank, once you are familiar with the world the puzzles aren’t that hard but I don’t think the creators, Simogo, want them to be. You always want to be moving forward or else it breaks the tension which so adds to the experience.
I have a love/hate relationship with horror. I don’t actually enjoy being scared and to be honest I scare easily. I do, however, enjoy the exhilaration that comes after being scared. This game definitely scratches that itch and at one point I had to switch on the light and take a little break. Even if you’re not the type to scare easily the story is written well enough to stand alone as a short piece of fiction and the ending has left a mark on me.
I highly recommend giving it a go, at the very least download the free companion app and learn a little folklore. You’ll be surprised what people used to believe when they were starving, freezing and dying of disease.