Year Walk looked like a game right up my alley. I watched the debut trailer for the title and was introduced to its creepy and spooky atmosphere filled with horror elements and just general darkness that looked like something I would really enjoy. Originally a mobile platform release, Year Walk for the Wii U is considered by the developers to be the “definitive” version of the game. So how is it? Let’s find out.
Year Walk is based on Swedish folklore where a person would deprive themselves of sleep and food for 24 hours then travel through the woods. The story has you playing as Daniel, who visits his lover who warns him of “year walking” and the consequences of it. Daniel participates in the ritual anyways, and then the game really begins.
To be honest, I wasn’t very interested in the story. It was told in a decent enough manner with dialogue, but I never really felt I understood everything going on. The game does have additional story and folklore elements that you can read up on, but I never felt “engaged” and lost in the story like I would have hoped to in a horror game.
The graphical style of Year Walk is very interesting and for the most part, rather well done. It’s a hybrid of 2D graphics on a 3D plane, and the presentation feels a bit like a well done comic book style. The drawings and details in the environment help bring a feeling of desolation and general despair which fits in the theme of the game. Couple that with well done sound effects and the general aesthetics and atmosphere of the game are very well done.
While I did like the presentation style of the game, at times, it felt a bit too superficial. The best way I can describe it would be something akin to abstract art: some people will really enjoy it, and some people won’t. I know this game was originally a mobile and PC release, but I feel like a little bit more could have been done to enhance the world of Year Walk. It’s a graphical style that I can understand some people not “appreciating”.
The gameplay in Year Walk is where my trouble with the game really began. The game is presented in a first-person view while you move left, right, up, and down in a 3rd person world but on a 2D plane. Obviously this was a design choice, and while I respect that, it feels a bit jerky at times and didn’t really help draw me into the world of Year Walk. The main element of the game is puzzle solving, which is actually done really well.
Year Walk uses the Wii U GamePad in a great way for puzzles, by using Gyroscope controls when needed. Moments like this really help draw you into the game more so, and many of the puzzles are pretty tricky. The GamePad also serves as your map, place to read up on more folklore, and more importantly, it offers hints if needed on where to go and what to do, as the game can be very cryptic in which tasks must be completed. I applaud the design choice to incorporate the Wii U GamePad into Year Walk instead of just using it as a second screen like many companies do.
My final issue with Year Walk is that it’s just so short. The game can be completed in around 2 hours if you don’t get too stuck on any of the puzzles, and while I understand that this is an indie game, I would have enjoyed a more fleshed out and lengthy experience. It just feels like it’s over too quick when you finally start to get invested in the game.
Year Walk is a game I thought I was going to love, but I just merely like it. It’s not a bad game by any means, and I think some fans of both dark art and horror will enjoy this game much more than I did, but for me, I have to hark back to that abstract art analogy I used earlier. You either “get it” or you don’t, and for me, Year Walk was just not the game for me.