I have always been a great admirer of Northern European mythology, with its vivid (and sometimes disturbing) imagery that draws on the wintry beauty of the landscapes that the inhabitants of Scandinavian countries know so well.
In Simogo's $4 Year Walk for iOS, you will plunge right into the middle of a harsh, snow-covered winter, searching for your future through what the Swedes call Årsgång, a mystical experience that can only be achieved by wandering--alone, at night, and on an empty stomach--until you make your way to a cemetery, reading signs of the things to be along the way.
Here be monsters
If this sounds like the synopsis of a horror movie, it's not that far off: Year Walk is an intense game that is guaranteed to give you a good scare or two, and one that I suggest you play within reach of a soft surface on which your device can fall without shattering in a million tiny pieces, because you're highly likely to drop it at some point or other. (If you don't suffer from a heart ailment, I suggest you play the game at full volume--it's very effective.)
As the game's protagonist, your job is to put your Årsgång on and make your way through the night, solving a series of puzzles to gain insight into your future. Along the way, you come into contact with your beloved girlfriend (who is deeply worried by your intentions) and by a dark crescendo of bizarre creatures, strange symbols, and genuinely frightening nightmares.
To mimic your descent into the proper dream-like state of a year walk, the game goes through different phases that are increasingly removed from reality, bringing you ever closer to a proper hallucination. This clever take on the familiar concept of staging helps to make the adventure more realistic, and gives you an opportunity to enjoy the ending that much more once you get to it.
Following in the footstep of other Simogo titles like Beat Sneak Bandit, the game's graphics are highly stylized, which somehow manages to give it an even more surreal and engrossing look. Shadows, leafless trees, tall angular buildings, blood trails, ghosts--they are all there, providing a gritty tapestry against which the action unfolds like in a pop-up book from hell.
Year Walk's soundtrack is also excellent, making full use of every trick in the book of thrill entertainment: discordant harmonies, creepy chimes, scratchy music, you name it. The incidental sounds, like your footsteps in the snow and the howling wind, are dialed in so that they feel exactly like they would in a cold environment where the snow muffles echoes and makes everything sound artificially close.
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