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Year Walk is a scary good adventure for iOS

Marco Tabini | April 16, 2013
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.

Maybe if I turn it like this...

Sight and sound aren't the only senses that are stimulated: the gameplay takes full advantage of iOS's capabilities to immerse you in its world. Year Walk doesn't have a typical interface: there are no settings or menus, and no heads-up displays; instead, your device becomes a window into the game's world, where you can interact by touch: swipes allow you to move, and at some point or other you will find yourself tapping, sliding, rotating, and even separating objects using your fingers.

Even your sense of direction is challenged, and more than one puzzle can only be solved by changing the orientation of your device in a particular way. Interestingly, Simogo has managed to integrate the use of accelerometers and gyroscopes with the story, so that all the tilting and rotating are perfectly justified.

Frustration rewarded

In one word, Year Walk is hard. If you're used to the way many modern games grab players by the hand and walk them through their stories, you are in for a very rough ride: the game offers precious few hints, and then only as part of the puzzles themselves. There is little in the way of narrative or exposition, and you're essentially left to your own devices trying to figure out puzzles that are meant to be the product of a mind in the midst of a hallucinatory episode.

From a story perspective, this fits perfectly well with the overarching theme of personal discovery and mystical experience; like you would during a real-life year walk, you have to figure out all the elements of the game by yourself and learn to navigate through all the roadblocks that are placed before you. Still, the game can be very frustrating at times, particularly when you are trying to find your way around a landscape that contains a large amount of distressingly-similar trees.

Luckily, it's all worth it, because the game's conclusion is very rewarding; in a clever twist, the game comes with a companion app whose contents can be used to unlock an additional cut scene, which, in turn, further explains the ending and reveals a troubling secret about the protagonist.

Bottom line

Year Walk is one of the best games I've ever played on my mobile devices; it brings together everything that makes tablets and smartphones unique into a fantastic package--and without resorting to gimmicks. It's a rare specimen in which every little detail is perfectly justified by the storyline, and you never feel like the developers are forcing you to do something only so that they can mark a checkbox in their list of must-have features.

 

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