Year Walk is a vision quest in video game form, a digital recreation of the nearly forgotten Swedish tradition of Årsgång. Created by indie studio Simogo (Device 6), Year Walk is a haunting and beautiful walk through Swedish folklore, with plenty of scares and twists to keep even the most hardened of gamers firmly entrenched in its creepy storybook forest. Available now for iOS, PC, and Mac, Year Walk is an excellent adaptation of folklore that makes the most of modern technology, seamlessly blending two worlds through time.
Year Walk's Story Combines Folklore with Gaming for Unique Feel
To understand the story of Year Walk, the game provides you with a short journal detailing the Swedish tradition of Årsgång, a cultural vision quest in which a person, after fasting and resting in a dark room, undergoes a walk through the forest for a vision of the future. Usually undertaken at liminal times of year—Christmas, solstices, and New Year's Eve—this quest could result in the walker encountering supernatural creatures that would test them and possibly herald disaster or good fortune.
While Year Walk actually started off as a film script, the jump to games makes perfect sense—throughout the game, you progress through a year walk, solve the challenges presented by the beings you encounter, and ultimately reach a resolution. It's the most basic quest structure there is, and yet the game still feels highly original.
It would be easy to let interaction drive the gameplay and set story aside, but that's not the case with Year Walk. While the story is quiet and requires some digging to unearth it, it is there, and uncovering it will give you an entire new appreciation for the visions and experiences you delve into over the course of the short, but effective, game.
Remember—a year walk is not something done once and forgotten. To best understand the game's story, pay attention to the clues you're given and explore everything the game has to offer. There's insight to be found beyond the walk itself, just as there was in the original tradition.
Year Walk's Adventure Game Puzzles are Anything but Typical
Year Walk takes an interesting approach—it's neither totally 2D nor entirely 3D. You spend the majority of the game walking back and forth across a sidescrolling environment, but will occasionally travel forward or backward as well as around particular objects. It can be a befuddling experience at times, but the game's dreamy nature encourages the uniqueness of its dimensions in a similar fashion to games like Fez.
With the game being called Year Walk, it's unsurprising that much of the game is concerned with walking. But these walks are purposeful, familiarizing you with the village your character inhabits and, through excellent sound design, drawing you into the setting. While it might be tempting to rush through the game and its puzzles, a slow, thoughtful approach is preferred—a year walk is a time for contemplation.
And the puzzles are worth savoring as well. Though they sometimes venture into being frustratingly difficult (similar to Device 6), the game does provide helpful (if vague) hints to keep you going. Year Walk's puzzles rely on concepts like sound, making them difficult for the hard of hearing or musically challenged, but also highly original. There are no adventure game staples like slide puzzles, and the game instead encourages you to play and explore, even if that play results in horrific visions.
Gorgeous Artwork and Haunting Soundtrack Set Year Walk Apart
If the gameplay and story aren't enough to sell you, the game's beautiful visuals are a treat. Snowy landscapes blend with beautiful color palettes for an original look like something out of a haunted storybook. When things get creepy, they really get creepy—colors shift and angles get spikier, and the game's few jump scares are just enough to get you tense and alert without making you close the game in annoyance. The monster designs, pulled from Swedish mythology, are memorable and interesting, and their haunting faces are likely to show up as figures in the player's dreams.
Because of the role that sound plays in solving some of the games' puzzles, it's safe to say that Year Walk's sound is crucial. Even if the puzzles weren't designed that way, the environment is made richer by the attention to detail, including the soft crunch of snow underfoot and the rare touches of Daniel Olsén's original score serve to highlight the game's atmosphere without overwhelming it.
Year Walk is a Journey Worth Taking
Though Year Walk is slow paced and its puzzles may be difficult, the flaws echo the game's setting and tone. Its second ending may feel a little trite, but bridging two worlds—the more mystical 1800s with our decidedly less mysterious modern era—draws the player in, making them question how different the two worlds really are. For sheer artistry and inventiveness, Year Walk is a must play that demonstrates the power of folklore, games, and a familiar journey made strange.
Year Walk is available now for iOS ($3.99), PC, and Mac ($5.99). Game Rant played the game on PC.