Year Walk (PC): Vision quest gone horribly wrong

Year Walk screenshot - Cabin in the woods. Taken from http://simogo.com/work/year-walk-pc/

Year Walk logo

Game: Year Walk (PC)
Publisher: Simogo
Release Date: March 6, 2014

Year Walk (PC) is an first-person adventure/puzzle game centered around an old Scandinavian tradition involving, well, walking. To be more specific (and more informative), year walking is a very old Swedish ritual in which the participant would venture out in the woods at night, meet potentially hostile creatures along the way, and get a glimpse of what’s going to happen in the future — supposedly without the aid of hallucinogenic substances. Of course, there are some people who are absolutely brave enough to partake in this ritual: us, gamers.

But only in through the game Year Walk.

Because no sane person would actually go out year walking IRL. So virtually, we’re all very brave. 😉

The Story

You play as Daniel Svensson, who, after being dumped by his girlfriend, decided to go out year walking. As Daniel, there are five “spirits” you get to meet to complete the ritual: the Huldra, the Myling, the Brook Horse, the Night Raven, and the Church Grim. In the end, you do get to see what’s going to happen in David’s future. I’m warning you, though: the future’s not going to be as pretty as the game’s art.

Year Walk screenshot - Daniel's girlfriend

The Game

Yes, Year Walk is indeed an adventure game, but I’m a little unsure of how to describe my experience playing it. To be honest, I find the game both restrictive and unbounded at the same time. Does that make sense? I have spent most of the time just walking around in the game, continuously checking the map every couple of minutes. One clear instruction is given at the start of the game: go back to the cabin. After that, it had been all up to me to investigate the environment and look for clues. I actually love this part of the game — the player is free to get to know his or her surroundings.

The main reason why I find the game a bit restrictive is that I can’t move Daniel the way I want him to in the forest. The game lets you travel from one end of the forest to the other by walking sideways. You have a first-person point of view in the game — that is, you’re facing forward. You’d think that the logical way to move is, well, forward, right? But your “walk” is restricted to moving from east to west (and vice-versa), like how a crab walks. The only time you get to go forward and/or back is when you move on from one area to the next. I find this type of navigation unusual and very awkward at first. Almost immediately, though, I remembered that Year Walk was originally created for the iPhone and iPad, on which side-scrolling would have made sense. Besides, this doesn’t really take away from the overall effect of the game. If there’s one thing you’ll remember about Year Walk, it’s definitely not how Daniel walks.

The Mood

Calling Year Walk as just an adventure game doesn’t really give you a complete description of it, does it? I should also tell you that Year Walk can justly be classified as a horror game. It doesn’t involve gory scenes and no zombies attack you. It’s not that kind of scary. The horror aspect of Year Walk comes from the game’s use of folklore in its narrative, coupled with its eerie, clouded, dreamlike atmosphere. The art itself is highly stylized, very cartoonish, and altogether childish, as if every shape and structure had been traced and cut out from coloured paper. Dark indigo and purple shades dominate the game. It’s wintertime: the trees are bare, snowflakes are falling and the ground makes a crunching sound with your every step. A walk in the woods, indeed! What turns this otherwise pleasant walk into a nightmarish ordeal is Daniel’s motive. He is out looking for the supernatural, and the supernatural will creep up on you when you least expect it.

The Moment of Truth: Should you play this game?

Year Walk is not a feel-good game, obviously. Still, most of us expect a happy ending, even in horror games. You’d think that surviving counts as an in-game win — I mean, that’s the whole point, right? I find Year Walk more disturbing than creepy. It’s one of those games that can make you stare at the screen for, literally, a couple of minutes, gaping out of shock and disbelief. So, yeah, you should totally play it.

Fun fact: The iOS version of Year Walk comes with its own free companion app. The app offers information about the creatures Daniel encounters, as well clues to unlock one of the puzzles in the game. The PC version of Year Walk does not need this app; it has been adapted to be played on its own.

Year Walk logo and in-game screenshots are from Simogo’s Year Walk page; game trailer has been taken from Simogo’s YouTube channel.

Click here to read other Creepy Games that I’ve reviewed.

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