Critical Play: Mysteries

Mysteries: Year Walk

Year Walk by Simogo released in 2013 on IOS for those 12+ relies on mild horror and puzzles to create a narrative that allows the user to ultimately discover a cow shaped key, having jumpscares, ghosts, and blood-smeared dolls along the way. In Year Walk, players solve puzzles, such as connecting dots on stones decorated with glyphs or revealing keys and ghosts through unlocking safes, to progress through the game. The mystery is how these puzzles ultimately lead up to the ending, what is behind each “safe” (such as a tree), and how these ghosts and the strange horse character are interconnected.

Players unlock a puzzle box.

Formal elements

Players: One player plays through Year Walk with first person point of view.

Objectives: This was a bit unclear from the onset, but players must bypass puzzles to ultimately reveal a slightly horror-filled narrative and unlock a box, which ultimately reveals the murder of a young girl.

Rules & procedures: Players swipe left or right and then up to travel through locations, solving puzzles along the way.

Resources: The game plays by using IOS on the IPhone.

Boundaries: The game is an app, taking place in a wintery forest.

Outcomes: The story unfurls to reveal the mystery behind the murder of a young girl.

Types of fun and How a Narrative is Woven into the Mystery

Year Walk includes aesthetics of fantasydiscovery, and narrative. The narrative relies on a Swedish phenomenon called “year walk” where the player walks around a church to reveal the future and avoid mythical creatures, with players discovering more of the story and environment through puzzles.

Players meet mythical creatures.

Players meet a mysterious ghost lady.

How Mechanics support the mystery

In the game, players touch and scroll to walk through an eerie ambient snowy environment. The simplistic controls makes for a click adventure game with popup-book aesthetics, making the game heavily narrative focused, similar to revealing a mystery through the calm ambience of a children’s book. Yet, the opposing dynamics of a horror story ending in the reveal of a murder told through children’s book aesthetics makes the game all the more mysterious and atmospheric.

Moments of success or fails and things I would change to make the game better

Successes: Year Walk’s usage of audio (snow crunching) and vignetted artwork with parallax create an immersive environment. The artwork and atmosphere is stunning, with simple to navigate controls that anyone can learn.

Fails: The puzzles can be difficult, and when a player gets stuck in the game there is little to help the player progress again without searching up cheats online. I would add a hint system or alternatives to puzzles for players who get stuck to make the game better.

About the author

I like animation and game dev yeet.

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