A thread of darkness is part of the appeal – and indeed function – of folklore and fairy tales. Simogo’s Year Walk – based on the Swedish tradition of year walking, a ‘vision quest’ meant to offer a glimpse of the future – puts the darkness firmly front and centre.
It’s a puzzle-adventure, where the aim is as much to mentally stitch together the underlying narrative as it is to ‘complete’ the game. That’ll take a couple of play-throughs and some time with the Year Walk Companion app – a very clever idea, which places the story is a strangely believable reality. All this is best experienced in one session of a few hours – ideally with a good pair of headphones.
The audio is sparse, heightening the isolation and matching the barren pop-up papercraft landscape, your feet crunching in the snow as you traverse the game’s layers with swipes of the screen. The delivery is restrained, curious scenes and eerie creatures arriving without fanfare, making the occasional full-on stab of horror that much more effective. Make no mistake: this is a tense, at times outright scary game. It achieves a wonderful conflict: intrigue drawing you in, but not wanting to look because you don’t know what’s in there.
A reasonable logic generally lies behind the puzzles, and the need to take notes is welcome. There’s very little in the way of guidance though, which does helps the game maintain a consistent atmosphere, but also risks the player missing a detail or going down the wrong track. And some of the puzzles do require a certain sort of thought.
That’s really the only criticism: that this ‘gamey’ nature of the puzzles might prevent Year Walk from finding the widest possible audience. Which is a shame, because the puzzles are almost secondary: first and foremost it’s a smart piece of original storytelling, that ought to be enjoyed far and wide.