Year Walk review
Excluding action horror titles, horror video games were never too numerous in the gaming industry, but up until recently, mobile horror games were practically non-existent. Sure, we remember the Rovio’s Darkest Fear trilogy (yes, the creators of Angry Birds produced a horror series) and some other, less known 2D survival horrors, but to this day, most of the mobile selection only includes more action-oriented titles like Dead Space. That is why we were so eager to start playing Year Walk the moment it was released on the App Store.
You see, while a lot of action horror games are fun to play in general, they rarely go further than endless rivers of blood and a few cheap jump scares. However, when a game constantly makes you feel uneasy and vulnerable, even when death is not an immediate threat, that’s when you know that developers did a great job. And Year Walk is exactly that – an atmospheric, dark, and twisted horror adventure that will stay in your head long after you stop playing it. The sense of dread and the unsettling feeling you’ll get while playing Year Walk is caused by a combination of unique visuals, creepy soundtrack, and a disturbing story based on the 19th century Swedish folklore. The game’s hand drawn art style looks like it’s been taken from a children’s book and repainted with much darker colours, which, as you can see, looks dismal. The haunting soundtrack is not exceptionally long, but the melodies vary and transition well, so you probably won’t notice it. Most of the featured tracks consist out of Swedish folk music, which alone sounds creepy enough, and when you’re playing Year Walk in the dark with your headphones on… well, let’s just say that’s something any fan of horror games should experience.
At its core, Year Walk is a first person adventure that plays similarly to escape-the-room games: you move across different locations and solve puzzles, usually in a predetermined order. Granted, it’s not as restrictive as most of the titles in this sub-genre, but that’s what the basic gameplay consists of. The puzzles themselves are cleverly designed and not too hard. Veterans of the genre probably won’t have a lot of problems with beating the game, but they’ll still find the puzzle-solving satisfying. As for the less experienced players, Year Walk will prove to be a moderately difficult game for them. Simogo managed to avoid some (though not all) of the genre cliches, but most of you will certainly appreciate some of the more unique puzzles and their solutions featured in Year Walk. Developers obviously put a lot of effort in designing the puzzles and balancing the game’s difficulty, even though the gameplay itself is actually completely in service of the narrative, so we wouldn’t be too judging even if the game was made ridiculously easy.
The biggest flaw of Year Walk is, in my opinion, its longevity. It can be beaten in an afternoon and although some will want to experience it again, it doesn’t have a lot of real replay value. Sure, there’s always the free Year Walk Companion app that you can read for quite some time, and quality certainly can’t be measured by hours, but it’s just that the experience of playing Year Walk was so good that I didn’t want it to end so fast. Unfortunately, it did – in about three hours. Since I already mentioned the companion app, I would suggest reading it after beating the game because although big portions of Year Walk are hard to understand without it, reading it before finishing Year Walk could spoil the experience to some degree, and trust me, you don’t want to do that. Not with this title.
Anyone even remotely serious about mobile gaming should experience Year Walk: its story, which I didn’t want to spoil even a bit in this review, its setting, the cleverly designed puzzles, the art style, the soundtrack, and the unnatural horrors it has in store for you. People are often sceptical when someone tries to describe video games as art, but Year Walk is exactly that – a small piece of art made by a very versatile developer. It won’t appeal to everyone and it probably won’t be a hit on the App Store, but that doesn’t diminish its value in the slightest. Year Walk proves that there’s more to mobile games than what you can see on the first page of the App Store (or any other store), and although it’s not the first title to do so, it’s been a while since a mobile game made me think the artistic value of video games. What more can I say than: buy it, play it… Fear it.
Graphics: 7.5 - hand-drawn, dark, and unique visuals
Sound: 7 - sound effects and soundtrack add to the setting, albeit the latter is a little short
Gameplay: 7.4 - satisfying in overall, balanced difficulty
Duration: 4 - not always relative to the overall quality of the game, but too short for my taste
Score: 7.7 - a memorable and artistic horror adventure worth playing
Genre: Horror adventure
Release date: February 21
The game score is not an average of other rated elements (since not all of them are equally important), just the reviewer’s overall opinion of the game.