Simogo, the creators of widely-praised Bumpy Road and Beat Sneak Bandit this time delivered us a completely unexpected game – a horror for iOS devices, in which player takes the role of a lonesome traveler who strives to find his way to the local church. In its core it is an exploration game where fragments of pure wandering in the unspeakably enigmatic and dangerous woods are divided by clever puzzles. The feeling of dread, accompanying the player constantly, is built mainly by grim visuals and sparse, yet moody music.
As you can imagine the atmosphere inside the Swedish forest is rather tick and it immediately inquires: why anyone would like to risk his life wandering through such a place alone at night. Well, the main character of the story has a good motive — he urges to see the future and according to Scandinavian, traditional tale he can achieve that by performing a year walk — a New Year»s Eve ritual during, which an individual has to seclude himself from the society and fast one day before heading off to the church right after the midnight. However, not many dare to undertake such a challenge — the journey might prove fatal as various creatures will haunt the adventurer until he reaches his goal or fails.
The forest is represented via multiple screens composed in a labyrinth-like fashion, through which you can scroll forward, backward and sideways by sliding your finger. Despite the fact that game has relatively small environment getting lost here is often the case — especially at the beginning when every screen has similar outlook with bare trees and snow-covered ground. With time, however, the surroundings fill with various characteristic objects that can serve as guiding signs, although their main role is quiet different — that is: to push the story forward. Such objects like for example a blood stains or wagon appear out of thin air and serve as a cue or a lead to subsequent puzzles. That actually forces the player to constantly explore the environment and visit familiar places multiple times in search of novelty. It is not necessary a bad thing — actually discovering changes happening around is quiet amusing and add a constant threat of a gruesome creature emerging when you least expect it.
The creators have released a free companion app, which briefly summarizes the key lore presented in the game and serves as an elegant introduction into the world of Swedish folklore. It is a worthy reading, not only because Scandinavian fairy tales are succulent and enthralling but also the game itself is not very explicit — operating mainly on symbolic cues rather than text depictions. Familiarity with companion actually gives you a deeper understanding of the happenings presented on screen by describing background of every creature, which often proves useful in solving puzzles.
The presence of companion replaces the element of surprise with that of anticipation — knowing who to expect actually makes you both restless and waiting to see the dreadful being with your own eyes. It also neatly stimulates imagination by making you wonder what appearance artists have given to the creature you»ve just learned about from companion — and they never disappoint. The game has exquisite spectrum of monsters — startling and original. Developers made great use of Swedish grim taste designing unique, often bizarre but always dreadful creatures. My personal favorite is the brook horse — a dead-pale rocinante wearing smart tuxedo and a tie while being half-submerged in the ice-cold water.
In contrast to other puzzle games Year Walk instead of logical intelligence forces the player to think in analogies. Trying to find connections between elements, particularly in later parts of the game, is not an effortless task since the game does not provide the player with any sort of tutorial and he has to come up with everything by himself. Yet, it also makes solving the puzzles a much more rewarding accomplishment. Approximately two hours should be enough to finish the game providing you don»t get stuck for too long on one of the puzzles. If you, however, find yourself such situation my advice is to check the companion before reaching for help to the internet.
Although strikingly different from endearing titles Simogo is known for, Year Walk is an astonishingly satisfying experience presenting technical perfection in every aspect: ranging from slick artistic design through intuitive controls to cunning puzzles. Nevertheless, it is the ghastly atmosphere that makes this game a truly memorable journey. Agitating and threatening Year Walk is definitely worth taking the risk.