For Something a Little Bit Different: The Creepy Beauty of the Swedish Countryside
In days long since past, man tried to catch a glimpse of the future in the strangest of ways. After playing Year Walk, I walked away with two things: I can appreciate how incredible the artistry of ‘Simogo’s’ creative team and I have learned how to have hallucinations without taking acid…
But the game is incredible on so many levels.
The premise of this game is a little different – it is based on an old Swedish folklore that if you wanted your fortune told, instead of visiting the local gypsy, people would lock themselves in dark rooms without eating and walk out in the forest at the stroke of midnight. Whatever you came across whilst tripping was supposably a symbol of your future. Swedish folklore is full of strange, dark creatures and a foreboding mythology. These were apparent symbols of the dangers and fortunes ahead in a person’s life. It’s a very cool concept.
Right from the start, the design of this game is freaking incredible. Every cut scene is old silent-movie styled, and reveals that your character is caught up in a love story, wanting to know his future. How adorable. There is also a free side-app companion to accompany the game, allowing you to read through the Swedish folklore behind every creature or image you encounter. The game actually tells you where to go to achieve the best ending through these symbols.
Once the Year Walk actually begins, things begin to become much more ominous. I’m going to admit, I expected a jump-scare every time I found the next step forward. And that music! Jeepers, creepers – so beautiful and so horrifying at the same time. They have deliberately used the ill-lighting contrast to bright, white snow and the jump between the two states is frightening. Every view can be manipulated, so you will spend many minutes zooming around the three-dimensional landscape, trying to figure out which way to wander in the snow.
Occasionally you’ll find creepy spirits who will lead you to an early death. You know, things happen. Sometimes you’ll run into small, quite tricky puzzles in the darkness. It will really put you on edge. As you collect the keys to your future, the game only becomes more macabre and sinister.
Not to mention, the deaths will give you a heart attack every time. There is some very undignified shrieking involved when playing this game.
The only drawbacks are the IOS controls and the necessity to use the side-app. Sometimes scrolling sideways to view the entire scene is awkward; there are some sections where you are required to hold an item with one finger and move with the other. I spent many minutes feeling stupid, trying to move anywhere, without success. Without the use of the side-app you can wander about without a clue what on earth you are doing, or why you’re trying to do it, when the answer is staring you in the face through a creepy man with a horse-head. Obviously, there are some difficulties if you choose not to read the folklore.
So I reached the point where a goat-faced man stood in front of me, with the galaxy under his coat and a floating, bleeding heart. It was here I realised something. Year Walk is as gorgeous as it is grotesque. I didn’t play to decipher the storyline (which was very adorable and heart-wrenching), I didn’t play to be challenged by puzzles; I was sitting there astounded by how beautiful the gameplay was. I was sitting there waiting to scream and instead was captivated by the artwork. Well, how about that.
My final verdict on Year Walk is that it is worth playing solely for the incredible mixture of terrors and art. I never thought 19th century Sweden could be as intriguing as this game made it to be. Sure, it can be a little awkward to move around at times and yes, it is much more understandable with the companion but I really enjoy anything that can make me stare in wonder and creep back in fear at the same time. It is a glorious concept; one I hope will be expanded upon in the future.