Last year, the fourth game by developer Simogo launched on iOS. It was named Year Walk and found itself becoming quickly successful. Critical acclaim drew more players despite iOS platform exclusivity. Now almost exactly a year later, Year Walk has launched on Steam, allowing PC gamers to see what the hype was all about. Rest assured that this game transcends any stereotypes you might have about smartphone games.
The game begins with a very brief monologue. You are introduced to the concept of “year walking”, which is meant to be a Swedish myth where people walk through the woods at night, causing them to see things. Smartly, the game does not attempt to force a story down your throat. Instead there is ample room given for players to explore and consider things themselves, at least for most of the adventure. You begin in a snowy forest with little guidance as to your purpose and figure it out from there.
It might take passing by a few trees with images carved into them to realize this is primarily a puzzle adventure. In order to progress and solve said puzzles it’s almost required that players take out a piece of paper to jot down clues. This is a rare tactic to see in modern games but it sure to please anyone who recalls taking notes for games in the past. There aren’t a ton of things to scribble down either making it a very fair experience overall.
Puzzles themselves do not have a tremendous range in difficulty. For the most part, all you have to do is interact with objects to make something happen or match clues with the proper puzzle to solve them. The puzzles have been altered somewhat from the initial iOS release meaning even previous players will need to engage their brains again. The biggest challenge usually lies with figuring out where to go to find the next big clue or solution. Since the map isn’t too large this isn’t a problem.
Players who do get stuck can utilize an in-game hint system. This is the biggest change from the game’s initial release as it never included one before. Although some have already declared the hints as game-ruining, you are never forced to use them. The best recommendation is to simply explore wildly until discovering the right areas. However, if being stuck completely impedes your progress then take a peek at some of the hints.
One other change between the two versions is that Year Walk Companion, a separate app from the main title, is integrated into the Steam release. It features a map as well as some backstory. Again, the map might seem to make the experience easier than it has to be but there’s only point when it becomes required and that is after you beat the game anyway. The same is true for the background information, as it can be completely ignored except at one point.
Year Walk is a gorgeous game with a supremely powerful atmosphere. The art may seem a bit simplistic, but that definitely helps to convey a cold, stark atmosphere. It’s all a bit eerie too, as you’ll find while playing. Despite not necessarily being a horror game there are still many horrifying elements to uncover. Sometimes the art feels otherworldly, and that only enhances the unique atmosphere.
The soundtrack is another key factor as it keeps players feeling nervous and anticipating what will come next. Beyond music, the audio design is also excellent and smartly used. There are multiple puzzles that relate to sound which is another rarity in current games. Be sure to keep the audio cranked loud enough to hear quiet cues that become louder as you near them. There is one audio-based puzzle that could cause issue for deaf or hard of hearing players, though.
It’s a shame that the game is over so quick. Finishing your “walk” takes around two hours, even with exploring content that is unlocked after the initial playthrough. There are a few reasons to play a few more times, such as the addition of Steam achievements. However, it’s really an experience best had once as otherwise the charm might wear off. It is also a shame to see that a few puzzles break the fourth wall when players aren’t otherwise expecting it. That can definitely cause undue frustration.
Year Walk is a surprising game. The name reveals little and leaves you room to fill in what exactly is going on and why for much of the journey. With a world that is as intriguing as it is creepy, it becomes hard to put the game down. Getting wrapped up in the visuals, audio and puzzles is something that just happens as you play. Clear a few hours from your schedule, put on headphones, and immerse yourself into Year Walk.
Version Reviewed: PC