I would define Year Walk as a horror, exploration, puzzle game. The iOS game tells the story of a Year Walk, where the character wanders the woods in the night, seeking out creatures who will tell his future.
The “horror” elements of the game are limited. The ambient noise allows for tension to build. There are creepy locations, camera effects (bobbing/flickering), and grotesque creatures. I jumped a few times when scary things came towards me, but I was never in a state of real fear because I was just wishing the game would progress in any way. If something would jump out at me, at least that would indicate I was on the right track. With no way to die, I wildly fearlessly swiped until I stumbled across something.
The story starts out extremely promising. You are in love, but the woman is marrying someone else. The game consists of you finding out how your relationship will play out in the future.
This simple but intriguing story is paired with gorgeous art! The somber mood of the world is created through dark contrasting water color-like images, and when you move forward or back each object appears like it’s cut out of paper. This creates a sense of fairytale depth.
The simple controls allow you to swipe the screen to move, but you are in a labyrinth with invisible walls. You move along a specified path that seemingly randomly halts your movement left or right and which indicates with arrows where you may go forward and back. In the hours that I played, most of my time was spent aimlessly wandering around and hoping I came across something different.
The game’s puzzle elements are ambiguous scenarios that you interact with by finding patterns in the world. There is no clear direction or order to the puzzles. This allows the player to feel lost and alone, as though truly searching for answers. That being said, while in hindsight it’s easier to see which solution goes with which puzzle, the lack of clarity was frustrating. Coupled with the seemingly arbitrary world layout, I lost any investment in the game by hour three or four.
Honestly, annoyance is the sum of my experience with this game. I was hopeful that even though I hate mobile games and despise horror, the story or art might be redeeming enough, but it’s not. The story is essentially a bookend for the gameplay, and while the environment is interesting, you need a companion app to know what anything represents in folklore.
Oh, and some of the puzzles can’t be solved in the “first run,” and some solutions aren’t even in the game itself but in the companion app that I didn’t even know existed!
I think that there are people (those already familiar with the folklore or who like keeping notes as they play) who will like the game and atmosphere so much that they draw a map to indicate clues and hypothesize connections. But I was never invested enough to care, found no joy in taking notes, and looked up a walkthough because I was bored, and, yes, annoyed.
Platforms: iOS (WiiU version is different: PEGI 12)
Release Date: February 21, 2013
Genres: Horror, Exploration, Puzzle
Age Rating: 12+