Year Walk is an indie horror/adventure game, based on Swedish folklore, specifically the concept of the Årsgång (or “Year Walk”), an ancient ritual during which the “walker” makes a midnight pilgrimage to a church in an effort to get a glimpse of the future, or something like that.
For most of the game, you take on the role of the Year Walker, who must traverse a beautifully stylized forest in a first-person perspective, with the goal of eventually reaching the church and having that moment of epiphany. Along the way, you explore, solve puzzles, and encounter several mythical creatures from Swedish folklore, including my personal favorite, the motherfucking Brook Horse.
The horse demands you return the souls of four mylings to him before you can make any further progress. As you’re delivering the tormented souls of murdered babies to a ghoulish demonhorse wearing a business suit, it’s a good time to pause and reflect on just how far video games have come.
Year Walk is spooky and unsettling and atmospheric as fuck, but at its heart, it’s mostly a typical puzzle-solving adventure game… until it’s not. At a certain point, you seemingly “beat” the game, and are given this message:
This where things take an extremely interesting and unique turn, and where Year Walk does a bunch of things that I haven’t ever seen in a video game before. For example, at one point, the game takes a pause and essentially asks you to read a short story on your gamepad before continuing. Phrasing it like that makes it sound like a chore, but the task is tied into the larger experience so seamlessly that I was really excited to dig further into the narrative in this weird new way. I remember snuggling up in my bed and settling into the story just like I would with a novel, before eventually returning to my standard video game position. No game has ever asked something like that of me before, and I found that I really, really appreciated it.
That’s not the only way the game takes advantage of the gamepad – it utilizes it in all sorts of ways! Whether it’s serving as a standard map display or as an interactive puzzle-solving tool, the second screen really gets a lot of mileage in Year Walk, which is not something you can say about most Wii U games.
Anyway, after “walking again” and reading stories and having my mind mildly blown, I actually for-realsies finished Year Walk.
It was definitely a short experience – just a handful of hours, including time spent reading and dicking around with puzzles – but it was a great experience. I’m sorry this write-up has been so vague about the game’s details, but I’d prefer not to spoil too much for those who haven’t played it yet. Because you should play it – at $6.99 on the eShop, it’s not too unreasonable for a few hours worth of wholly unique entertainment, and it’s a game that will definitely stick in your mind for a few days after you’re finished playing.