Year Walk Review: Eerie Puzzle Game Challenges and Frustrates
With the glut of Temple Run clones, Angry Birds clones, retro game ports, and obnoxious freemium titles in the App Store, it’s always a pleasure to discover something out of the ordinary. One such game is Year Walk, the spooky, sometimes frustrating adventure game from Simogo.
Like most of you, the concept of the “Year Walk” is not familiar to me, and honestly it doesn’t need to be. Just know that this is based on an old Sweedish folklore, and that it’s sort of like a walk-about or vision quest. You are a person on a Year Walk; the game is your experience of it, along with whatever truths you discover or mysteries you solve in the course of it. Honestly, that’s about as far as I’m willing to explain the plot, for fear of spoiling it.
Depending on your playstyle, the description above can sound either intriguing or frustrating. I was intrigued. Year Walk reminded me first of the kind of CD-ROM adventure games I used to love in college — titles like Lost in Time or Myst (especially Myst). It also reminded me of some other less mainstream iOS titles we’ve seen in recent years, like Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery. Games that don’t hand-hold and that invite exploration.
It’s not a game for the easily frustrated. There’s no game menu, no map, no hint system; for some of the clues, there’s not even a replay button. You need to be paying attention at all times. You need to think outside the box. You need to consider that the game is expecting more from you than mere tapping.
You also need to be listening. There’s a definite audio component here that means you won’t be playing the game in public without a set of earbuds. At one point early on, I was playing the game on mute, not realizing that the puzzle I was trying to solve relied on audio cues; without them, I was literally guessing at random.
This “hands off approach” in terms of player assistance can get annoying, especially if there’s a lengthy gap between play sessions. This game almost demands being played in a single evening, just so nothing slips your memory between play sessions. I know that I started actually taking random screenshots of things I thought might be important, just so I wouldn’t forget them. Whether this is a point in the game’s favor, or a point against it, is really up in the air. In the balance of playability vs. originality, though, I think the game is slightly unbalanced.
In terms of presentation, the game pairs its befuddling gameplay with eerie, sketchy, evocative graphics. Things aren’t black-and-white, but they’re done in very muted monochromatic tones, so that colors — a splash of red, or a blue flame — stand out when they’re present. The game audio is likewise minimalist and eerie, with sounds oftentimes playing a key part in what you’re experiencing onscreen.
Ultimately, Year Walk is not a game that will draw a huge audience. Like a good arthouse movie, it just won’t appeal to everyone. But for those who appreciate developers who do something different, and who appreciate a challenge and don’t mind having to backtrack, this is definitely a game worth playing through.
Our Score: 4 out f 5