Year Walk, the latest mobile release from Simogo, is almost the exact opposite of the team's previous release Beat Sneak Bandit. It's a great credit to the studio, however, that such different games can be pulled off with equally impressive results. Structured like a minimalist point-and-click puzzle game, Year Walk weaves together various pieces of Swedish mythology to set an atmosphere of cold intrigue and foreboding mystery. It's a beautiful and very meaningful game, and quite the haunting experience if you sit down and let yourself get drawn into the story.
Year Walk plays out across strips of horizontal scenes you can scroll left and right by swiping on the screen. Most of the scenery is snowy hills and a few trees, but when something interesting can be examined or a new path opens up, small white arrows appear at the top or bottom of the screen, signalling the ability to swipe in that direction to move to a new row. By scrolling, swiping and occasionally tapping, you'll quickly explore the sparse landscape, picking up clues and encountering a few living pieces of folklore along the way.
Year Walk is the sort of game that begs you to play with pen and paper nearby. Clues are often handed to you with no context, sometimes overtly played on the screen and sometimes casually carved into the side of a tree you'll pass by. There are several interactive contraptions you can mess around with, but their purpose isn't immediately clear. You're going to have to explore and see what you can see. No spoilers here!
Analysis: The concept of a year walk is a Swedish tale where participants deny themselves food and drink on certain days of the year in exchange for a glimpse into the future. Anyone undertaking the tradition is said to see strange creatures during their ritualistic walk, an experience the game Year Walk replicates extraordinarily well. There's an undeniable sense of mood and setting to this game, one that covertly seeps beneath your skin and becomes a part of your mind. The quiet snowy landscapes help you settle down for a thoughtful night until suddenly... something happens. Be ready for some tense emotional moments, and not in the "BOO! SCARED YA!" sort of way.
Alongside the game, Simogo has partnered with folklore expert Theodor Almsten to release Year Walk Companion. The free download collects information about some of the concepts and creatures you encounter in the game, adding a little bit of depth to the experience.
Year Walk may leave some players stranded from time to time, but that feeling of being lost is part of the experience. If you don't know where you are or what to do, even the smallest details take on a heavier meaning. And when your innocent walk turns up something frightening and new, it has such a stronger impact. Year Walk is an extremely polished and quietly beautiful game. Turn out the lights, grab your headphones, and let yourself get lost in one of the best iOS experiences yet.
NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on the iPad 3. Game was available in the North American market at the time of publication, but may not be available in other territories. Please see individual app market pages for purchasing info.