Having had Year Walk on my iPad for over a year, I decided it was time to see what all the fuss was about with this adventure/puzzle game many were saying was both revolutionary for the iPad/iPhone, but also scary as fuck.
You start the game out like most indie titles and games nowadays – without no context on where you are, what you’re doing, and what you should be doing. This turns out (as I’ve said many times before) to be an extremely successful method in getting users entranced and involved with your game, with players touching the screen and experimenting with the game, causing them to in turn become more hooked as they play on. Year Walk is no different, and since it’s also a puzzle game you’ll be needing your notepad ready, as anything you come across in the game could be classed as a clue to use in the future, or an ordinary object.
You navigate the land of Sweden (where this game is based) by swiping the screen left and right to move on one “plane”, coming across entrances to places every now and then allowing you to swipe backwards or forwards to progress. It doesn’t take long until you’ve fully explored the land Year Walk has to offer, but its in all the little details and narration that you’ll find along the way which’ll make this world slowly become more filled out.
Year Walking is the practice some people used to partake in, the game tells you at the start, where they would wonder through woods and forests eating and surviving on nothing to eventually come to the conclusion they could see into the past or future. Year Walk certainly makes you do a lot of exploring, and lives up to its name by making you find every single nook and cranny this forest has to offer. You could explore for 15 minutes and come across nothing, but suddenly, you take a different turn at a path and find yourself in a different area that has a different puzzle for you to solve, or even just a riddle that cannot be solved at that moment in time and instead is used as a clue for how to solve a future puzzle. It’s all a little bit mind bending, and its fantastic.
The game is pretty spooky, and definitely has an atmosphere about it. At first, you’re just lonely, and explore this wilderness until your hearts content, but eventually you’ll happen across huts or bunkers, upon which you’ll enter (cause, why the hell not, you’ve been seeing nothing but white snowy fields constantly) and get just a little more spooked out from a new puzzle you’ve encountered. I don’t want to spoil too much of the game, but take for example the first clue/puzzle you come across. Its a doll hanging from a noose; spinning its head enough makes it do a sequence of arm movements, and just before it finishes its little dance, it turns around to reveal a bloody face, with the games camera and sound effects coming to great use to scare you at an otherwise benign/normal stage.
Characters you encounter throughout the game don’t help in making the game inviting, with an eerily silent woods occasionally giving way to intrinsic characters that are both spooky to look at, and scary to consider. Each mystical being you encounter will have their own sound effects and uniqueness about them, some may appear safe and nice to look at, but will soon make you question their presence in the game. Others are damn right freaky to look at in the first place, making you want to get away from them as soon as possible. They are there for a narrative reason though (not only to hamper your progress and give you more puzzles to solve), so its with these fantastically unique characters that you start to build a story for the game, ensuring you’re building your own narrative based on the limited amount of detail you’re given.
The soundtrack is creepy, and the graphics definitely help in evoking a desolate forest which is ripe for exploring. You may get freaked out at times because of the games ability to make you feel lonely, especially if you’re a fool like me and played the game in a pitch black room with headphones in. As much as I say I’m a fool for doing this, I’d hugely recommend that this is possibly the best way to play Year Walk, if not only to get just as immersed as you possible could do on a small portable display. And talking of small portable display, Year Walk pulls out all of the stops in being a mobile game like The Room by making you use all of the unique features the iPad has to offer. You’ll come across some puzzles or objects that require a novel way of thinking to solve, with these puzzles being some of the most interesting in the game by making you scratch your head for ages just to realise the simple solution.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Year Walk, and I feel that if anyone can get it cheap enough they should definitely give it a go. It’s a surreal and weird experience to be played on your iPad or iPhone, and one that I feel a lot of people would enjoy. The adventure.puzzle elements work to the games advantage in pushing its narrative across to the player, and as much as lots of puzzles may seem random or annoyingly hard, they are perfectly integrated into the story and world, and will make players feel intelligent for solving them. I came away pleasantly surprised at the game, and now want to download the developers latest game, Device 6, to see how far Simogo can push the concept of lack of narration and puzzle adventure games.