Critical Play: Year Walk
About the game
For this week’s Walking Simulator Critical Play, I played Year Walk. The game was designed by Swedish Mobile Developer Simogo, and I played it on an iPhone. The target audience is listed by the app as 12+, but in my opinion the game is marketed toward the 16+ demographic due to its unique art style and horror themes.
As for most walking simulators, the game is played by only one player. A player can either scroll forward to advance and move around, or drag around objects to solve various puzzles.
Gravestones can be dragged around to solve puzzle
In my opinion, the game sets itself apart with its distinctive art style; objects, characters, and scenery are rendered as neither realistic nor low-poly, but use their own unique style and perspective to depict events and progression. The scene is set in a 2D manner, but scrolls forward to unlock new levels, giving the game a feeling of a blend between 2D and 3D. The game also incorporates unique Swedish folklore elements that add to the immersion of the game.
Screenshot is shown mid-scroll, showing the two scenes players can “walk” between in first-person
The game also contained different puzzles as challenges to progress to future scenes; Thus, it is not a purely walking simulator; there are a lot of stops in the general flow of the game that requires intense puzzle solving, which can sometimes take a very long time (as elaborated on later in the critical play).
Because I typically play more mechanically-involved games, playing a purely walking simulator was a little strange at first. The game was fun, but in a different way from other games I have played in the past; it relies very heavily on narrative, but takes away a lot of the agency that other games have. It also involves a little bit of fantasy, as players impersonate a character in a magical world and base their actions on in-game interactions.
Highlights / Lowlights
In terms of more specific moments, the game can feel frustrating at times given that there are no instructions. It is completely up to the player to solve the challenges, and there is little interaction with other characters to help solve each puzzle. In particular, there were a few times when I felt completely stuck and could not really advance.
No idea what to do here — did not end up being part of the puzzle
When a puzzle is finally solved, however, it does feel like a significant accomplishment (as is the case in most puzzle games). However, in Year Walk, each subsequent puzzle shows up quickly after the previous, giving little to no time for players to “rest” and experience its amazing graphics. Thus, one recommendation that I would have would be to allow for more exploration, or introduce more characters to give a more conversational / exploratory tone to the game rather than pure puzzle solving.
Given a key in front of a misleading door…
Solved it! 🙂
Overall, Year Walk is a beautiful game with impressive, stylized graphics and a unique player movement system. While the game is frustrating at times, overall it accomplishes its goal in telling an interactive story in an immersive manner.