Mobile games are known for their focus on quick drop-in play and light subject material, ideal for a two-minute wait at the bus stop or doctor’s office. Year Walk breaks that mold and demands critical thinking and puzzle solving – ideally as you sit in a darkened room, headphones tight to your head, with your attention squarely focused on the game at hand. If you offer that commitment to Simogo’s stunning effort, you uncover one of the most original, refined, and artistic games on mobile.
You play as an individual engaging in a forgotten Swedish ritual called the Year Walk – a complex ordeal of fasting and solitude that offers a glimpse into the future. As you walk the snow-covered forest, your vision quest offers interactions with a host of terrifying creatures from Swedish folklore, each offering clues to your character’s life and destiny.
To progress, you navigate the forest with swipes of a finger, your feet crunching down into the snow as you sidestep through the scene, or swiping forward and backward to move into the fore or background. As you explore, puzzles present themselves gradually, and then only if you take the time to carefully observe the environment and its secrets. Clues and solutions lie in the sights of the forest, the sounds you hear, and even the way you hold or interact with your device. The total number of puzzles is relatively small, but each demands that you think in a new and surprising way, and draws you deeper into the cold and minimalistic presentation. I adored most of these puzzles, but a few require a level of observation or memorization that necessitate a notepad at your side (I’d have appreciated an option to make notes in-game).
Year Walk may be played on its own, but the full experience demands that you download a second, free app called the Year Walk Companion. On the surface, the Companion offers insight into the dark folklore on display in the main game, as detailed by an expert on the subject. Knowing more about creatures like the seductive Huldra and unnerving Brook Horse deepens the horror of encountering them on your walk, but the Companion’s true depths only reveal themselves over time, and tie together the experience in a way that sheds new light on the core game.
Like some of the best entries in Swedish filmmaking, Year Walk left me disturbed and transfixed by the unfolding drama and unsettling imagery. Outstanding sound effects and music, evocative visuals, and clever gameplay join together into an artistic presentation that defies easy classification; its melding of adventure game puzzles with subtle but pleasing splashes of terror have remained in my mind for days after completion. If you’re wondering when mobile games are going to start offering something more sophisticated and nuanced, Year Walk is at the vanguard on an emerging frontier.