Critical Play: Walking Simulators (Year Walk)

Name of game: Year Walk

Creator: Swedish mobile game developer Simogo

Platform: iOS mobile device

Target audience: anyone who wants an adventure in ominous, spooky vibes

Important formal elements

  • Players: single player vs. game
  • Objective: exploration (played from a first-person perspective to explore an environment and discover a narrative about the game)
  • Outcome: everybody wins, as they will eventually reach the end of the walk
  • Resources: mobile phone interface, graphical display explorable environment
  • Rules & procedures: explore the environment by panning, scrolling, and zooming. Interact with objects by tapping and examining them.
  • Boundaries: the phone screen, and the virtual environment

Types of fun

  • Narrative: players play the game to unveil and experience the mysterious story (goal met)
  • Sensation: players play this game for the outstanding visuals and the music that engage their senses directly and give spooky vibes (goal met)

Moments of particular success/fails

  • Success: When I passed by a tree with the image carved into it, I didn’t notice it was a puzzle at first, but eventually figured that it was indeed a puzzle, took out a paper to jot down the clues, and solved it successfully. The fact that puzzles are embedded in non eye-catching places is interesting.
  • Fail: The narrative is about encountering a series of fairies and mythical creatures from Swedish folklore to find out the truth behind why the “Year Walk” is dangerous. However, I cannot personally relate to the game because to be honest, I have no interest in Swedish folklore. The graphics and music are nice, but I wish I could have related to it more culturally.

Things I would change to make the game better

  • The fact that the game is in 2D first-person perspective, but simulates a 3D environment, makes it a little confusing. It really blurs the line between 2D and 3D (which I guess was on purpose?). But for me, this technique didn’t make the game better; it just made me feel dizzy. I would make the depth zoom continuous for a smoother experience.
  • Walking simulations are long, and the player might get bored, no matter how good the story is. I would put in more popup scares to “wake” the player up in case they snooze.

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