Year Walk Critical Play

I played Year Walk on PC (though it was originally developed for mobile) developed by Simogo. It is intended only for audiences who can handle scary situations / disturbing content since the game does go through a lot of creepy situations.

The game creates immediately creates a clear objective for players: to complete a year walk. A year walk is a Swedish tradition that supposedly allowed those who completed to have glimpses of the future. There are also several conflicts to stop you from completing that objective, and they come in the form of several puzzles throughout the game that rely on the entire map. The boundaries of this game are also very interesting because the puzzles do require the entire map, but the map also simultaneously changes and expands as each puzzle is completed, so trying to figure out where to go to solve one particular puzzle becomes more challenging as it goes.

This game attempts to create Discovery and Obstacle fun and succeeds in creating both. The constantly expanding map creates Discovery fun since players end up wanting to find out what changed after each individual puzzle. The puzzles themselves create the Obstacle fun.

I really like a lot of the aspects of this game. First, the music is AMAZING at creating the spooky, creepy environment of the game. Secondly, the art of the background also contributed very nicely to that atmosphere. Particularly, throughout the vast majority of the game the background looks more or less like this:

There may be more or fewer items in the background depending on exactly where in the map you are, but the monotony of it creates an environment where players can very easily get lost, and it contributes to the spooky nature of the game. However, when this monotony is broken later in the game, the sudden change is almost like a jump scare in how different it is, and it personally put me on edge, and I was immediately highly suspicious of it.

Spoiler Warning:

On the other hand, I really wasn’t a big fan of a couple of the puzzles. Some of them were pretty self explanatory (follow the blood to find the ghost children), but specifically the church grim puzzle had me stuck for quite a while. There was no clear connection for how one would figure out how the puzzle works from the rest of the game, in my mind at least, and I had to rely on the hint feature in order to even know that it relied on the runes because I would have had no reason to think that otherwise. I personally think that if your game relies (or at least many viewers need it) on a hint feature for people to even know what the puzzle is, the puzzle could be better integrated into the story. Additionally, once I did do the puzzle and found the answer, in the form of these arrows:

I was still unable to complete the puzzle because even though these are double arrows, it really only referred to spinning around the church once. I think that a small design change of making this into a single arrow would make this much more clear.

All in all, I really enjoyed my time playing Year Walk, and I think that the developers made a lot of really good choices to make a very fun, spooky game!

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