Set in the dark woods of 19th century Sweden, Year Walk is a creepy and enveloping puzzle adventure game that will have you on the edge of your seat and hands locked tightly around your iDevice until the credits roll.
I honestly have no idea if a ‘Year Walk’ is a real thing or something the Simogo team invented as part of the game’s back-story, but either way, the legend goes that in ancient times, Swedish men used to try to see the future by “locking themselves in dark rooms without food or drink and at the stroke of midnight they’d venture into the night through the dark woods where strange creatures roamed“.
From the moment you set out on your Year Walk, you are immediately immersed into the story without a hint of instruction. It is up to you to figure out how to navigate this creepy landscape and find your purpose. This lack of any tutorial actually does a brilliant job of instilling the player with that same sense of confusion and uneasiness the main character (whom they embody) is likely is feeling.
I wont go into any specifics of the story as I would hate to spoil the mystery for anyone. Though, as you explore your surroundings, you build out a mental map of the forest. Other than an occasional arrow which appears when you can fork up or down from your current path, you are given no view-able map of your surroundings. While at first this may be a bit disorienting (which it’s supposed to be), you will quickly become more familiar (but never quite comfortable) with your surroundings and how to navigate where you need to go. While I found the landscape difficult to navigate at first, it is just another of the elements beautifully layered by Simogo to create the ambiance of the game.
Since it is this mental map that guides you, Year Walk is best completed in one go (and you may want to have a pen and paper handy), it should take about 1.5 hrs to 2 hours to complete. Think of the game as more of an interactive movie (complete w/ widescreen). You wouldn’t stop a movie half way through, you’d enjoy it all in one viewing, otherwise if you were to take a break (not that you’ll find yourself wanting to) the built-up suspense of the experience will likely be lessened.
Simogo really shows their knowledge of the iOS platform, utilizing its strength’s and touchscreen capabilities in every way possible, crafting an engaging set of puzzles that require patience, perseverance, a little outside of the box thinking and a keen eye. The game has its own unique graphical style with stark and unsettling Bergman-eque visuals that are a rich mixture of 2D and 3D giving the impression almost like you are walking through the pages of a finely illustrated book. The sound design is phenomenal as well, raising goosebumps and setting a suspenseful tone for the creepiness unfolding before your eyes. The resulting game is unlike anything you’ve experienced on the platform to date.
While a sometimes downright intense and always dark adventure, Year Walk is as deep of an experience as you make of it. In conjunction with the proper game’s release, Simogo launched a free companion app which not only provides more details into the folklore and mythos of the creatures encountered within the game, but also plays a part in completing the game to its fullest. I’d almost liken my Year Walk journey to the first time I saw the Blair Witch Project, it is something you must experience for yourself, but it is unlikely that it has much replay value. That being said, no matter how much of this supplemental material you partake in, like any good thriller, Year Walk will likely leave a lasting impression. And if you are one of those people who leaves during the credits, you may want to rethink that philosophy, because it isn’t over until it’s over.
Year Walk is easily Simogo’s finest work to date. Unlike their previous efforts which were games that experimented with new control schemes (with mixed results) Year Walk feels less like a game and more like a fully realized interactive experience, steeped in mystery, folklore and supernatural elements. Cheaper than a film and a whole lot more interactive, Year Walk is a journey of exploration well worth taking.