You didn’t read the title wrong. Year Walk, the latest from Simogo (aka Simon Flesser & Magnus “Gordon” Gardebäck) really is an early game of the year candidate. It’s surreal, spooky and remarkably captivating, standing out amongst the throng of iOS titles released on a daily basis in a silent movie kind of way.
It’s actually a little difficult trying to write a review without spoiling the story itself, so I’ll avoid telling or showing anything too spoilerish. The concept itself revolves around an ancient Swedish tradition, also known as årsgång, and though the folklore varies a little it essentially involves staying within a dark room for a long period of time before going out into the wilderness at midnight. Usually held around Christmas or New Years Eve, the person would have to travel to the church and on arrival walk around the building in a specific pattern in order for his future to be revealed to him.
It’s said that when someone walks through the forest towards the church that they see all kinds of strange creatures, which is exactly what Simogo taps into with their take on the story. As you discover where you are and what you need to do, mysterious creatures and unusual characters will appear to interact with or aid in some puzzle solving. It’s not all that straight forward, in fact you’ll have to do a lot of thinking even early on to be able to move forward.
What isn’t difficult is interacting with the world. The only controls you need to know are swiping to get around the comic book like environment and tapping on certain items or characters in order to interact with them. Once you get that down, which won’t take long, you can focus on trying to figure out where you have to go next. The game does give you a few minor hints, small arrows will appear to show you where you can go, but beyond that it leaves you to your own devices. There’s no menu or pause, no options or the in-app purchases. This is purely about telling a story and allowing you to discover it for yourself.
And what a story, though its not the only thing that impresses. Both visually and auditorily Year Walk shines, it’s eery tones will get under your skin as even stranger images appear before your eyes. The intention isn’t to scare, not literally, though perhaps some may be weirded out by it.
For those who do want to know more (and perhaps gain a few clues), Simogo have also created a companion app that explains the creatures and philosophy on show. It isn’t necessary to read the companion during your play time, but it adds so much more to the experience as you learn not only about what you saw and interacted with, but other superstitions that go deeper into the meaning of the årsgång itself.
Simogo has taken a huge risk with Year Walk. It’s more a journey than a typical video game, one that I’m very happy to have taken part in. If you want more than just a quick puzzle to pass the time, something with meat on its unearthly bones, here’s your answer.
[review pros="Beautiful, compelling artwork combined with a wondrous and surreal story, eerie yet wonderful musical score" cons="Not really for the young ones, you'll be thinking long and hard to solve some puzzles" score=95]