Game: Year Walk
Platform: iOS, OS X, Microsoft Windows, Wii U (Played on iOS)
The game I chose to play for this Critical Play was Year Walk. After playing my first walking simulation last week, Dear Esther, I think I was more well acquainted with how the genre works, so playing Year Walk was slightly more intuitive.
Overall, the game revolves around a mysterious plot line and horror-like theme. The storyline is that a young man is going on a “year walk” in hopes of seeing parts of the future and meeting his lover. The art in the game is phenomenal and incredibly spooky. It uses only black, white, and gray, and makes great use of layering and transparency to add to the horror theme. It also adds to the feeling that everything is clouded and foggy, which physically reinforces the theme of mystery. Based on the artwork, mood, and themes around the game, I would think the target audience was for players 13 and older.
The main mechanics in the game involve moving around by going left and right, and zooming in. This was actually one of the unique things I saw in this game, since they used a mix of 2D and 3D. You are allowed to explore the area sideways, but the true exploration is going deeper and deeper into the winter forest and not knowing where it starts or ends. When there are objects of interest, you can click them to reveal/pick them up/solve puzzles. There is a map that slowly get uncovered once you go through certain areas, and these areas can serve as the physical boundaries of the game. In terms of procedure, there isn’t really any set procedure since it mostly involves walking around to puzzles and buildings in your own tempo. The game is clearly single player, and the outcome would be to find out the mystery of what happened to the girl the man fell in love with.
I think the type of fun would be exploration, roleplay, and challenge. Similar to Dear Esther, I think I would compare it to reading a book or watching a movie, but there is also the addition of puzzles and trying to figuring out new mechanics as you go on (ex. exploring in the dark). I also know that they created a companion app with the game which tells you about the background of each of the creatures you encounter in the game, which adds to the storyline. There is also a space in this game for interacting with other characters and hearing dialogue, which was nice in changing the pace. I like the fact that you are able to dwell in certain parts that you like, and especially the fact that the landscape changes even if you’ve already been to a certain location before.
I think Year Walk was a nice blend of narration, exploration, and puzzles. Because of the rotation between the three, I found it much more engaging than just focusing on one task the entire time. The ambience and music also really added to my enjoyment of the game. I think as with any game, it was a bit confusing as to how the new mechanics worked, especially because of the 2D/3D blend, but I think as time went on it became more natural to me. One change that would be nice would be to have some sort of short tutorial that introduced the movement mechanics, but again, it was not completely obscure either. Even the game art is mostly still, I liked that added motion through falling snow and the sound of muffled footsteps. Even during the dialogue, instead of just displaying text, they added an element of shakiness and an “old film” filter to the screen to add to the overall creepy theme.