You don’t expect to find a horror experience on the App Store and you certainly don’t expect it to be quite so genuinely unnerving, affecting and requiring of intelligent thought, but Year Walk surprises on almost every level. Using Swedish folklore as its inspiration, the Year Walk of its title is supposedly the spiritual rite of passage a person could undertake with the intention of witnessing the future.
Along their journey, these Year Walkers would find themselves dealing with folklore’s nastier creatures, presented here in an other-worldly dream-like fashion that’s as disturbing as it is intriguing. To fully understand Year Walk, though, a companion app is also available (for free), and it’s the ways in which the story criss-crosses the two that’s by far and away the most impressive aspect of Year Walk’s gameplay. This has all the hallmarks of a classic horror game presented neatly and economically on your iPhone or iPad.
It really is that brilliant and is only let down by its limited interface and short playtime. Year Walk presents a snowy Swedish landscape that players can explore. Locations evoke a sense of dread, and investigating the world and its puzzles requires players to pay attention to the companion app, which details Sweden’s horrid folklore and disturbing creatures.
It’s not just Year Walk’s impressive use of the horror genre that gets under your skin, it’s the creepy visual design and the way it asks players to interact with its world that leaves a lasting impression. Its failure to hold your hand, give hints or aid players in any way also brings back a certain sense of accomplishment when you complete a task.
Puzzles are difficult but come with an ingrained, if warped, sense of logic, and the whole thing is rounded off with one of the most terrifying denouements, something we rarely see in triple-A console games let alone one that you can play on your phone. The only let-down is the fact that Year Walk, though rekindling our love for the point-and-click adventure, is a linear experience and leads players by the nose. Working out its more than cryptic puzzles is a significant challenge, but reach its climax (and the final foreboding conclusion) and there’s no reason to return.
Year Walk is also presented in a linear visual fashion that, though it is used effectively, creates a repetitive and – if you’re able to rush past its puzzles – rather short experience. But none of this should take away from what is a monumental and truly frightening game that packs more innovation and ideas into the horror genre than we’ve seen from ‘traditional’ games for some time. Just like Slender, Year Walk is a surprise, and one that, like any good horror game, will leave you feeling unsettled for days after its completion.