Critical Play – Walking Simulators – Year Walk

I played Year Walk by Simogo on my iPhone for ages 12+. There are important formal elements of the game. For procedures, the player walks and tries to complete challenges they discover in a mystical world to uncover the future. There are gray arrows that appear on the bottom or top of the screen when the player walks around, and players can swipe up or down to go forward or backward when they see these.

Players can also swipe left or right to walk in those directions. Players can hold, drag, or tap to complete certain challenges. There are not explicit rules, but unallowable actions are implied, because the software will not allow players to perform certain actions. Players can encounter challenges (like tapping owls in a certain way) and clues (like the order of a dance of a creepy doll) by walking around.

Since this is a single-player game, Year Walk seems like player vs game. The objective is to uncover the future through completing challenges. The outcomes seem to be non-zero-sum; however, one can also view it as zero-sum since if the player wins, the game “loses.” The resources are in the form of helpful things like the fire or key that players can obtain to help get the next clue or pass the next challenge.

The boundary is the screen when the app is open. There are many conflicts/obstacles like trying to find dead babies for the lake man to try to obtain a special key.

Types of fun include sensation, fantasy, narrative, and discovery. The game met most of these goals, since it has beautiful visuals and satisfying/crisp sounds that can be discovered while walking (sensation), creepy/mystical creatures in a mysterious place (fantasy), and challenges and clues the player can uncover by walking (discovery). However, I think the game failed at narrative fun. Aside from the beginning when the girl converses with the player, the rest of the game felt like non-narrative roaming around.

However, walking did sort of tell a certain type of story by allowing the player to discover new challenges/clues that contribute to the player’s unique storyline experience or game progression; different players may walk in different directions, so each player’s story is unique.

There was a moment of particular success where I successfully returned dead babies to the lake guy, and there was also a moment of failure in the beginning when I was confused about how to play the game (it was unclear what I was supposed to do).

To improve the game, I would include more instructions to guide and orient the player in the beginning, because for people who have never played a walking sim, it may be confusing what one is supposed to do. Additionally, more dialogue and character interaction (like the girl in the beginning) could have enhanced the narrative type of fun.

Ultimately, I enjoyed playing Year Walk, and I expanded my perspective on the types of games I find enjoyable.

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