Horror is a genre I have always devoured. Some may find it too stressful, but I have always enjoyed that particular mix of chemicals that the brain releases when confronted with surprising and unsettling stimuli. I’m the kind of person who doesn’t want to watch a horror movie or play a horror game unless it’s dark outside and the blinds are pulled shut, so I can get the atmosphere as creepy as possible.
It’s safe to say that when word was going around this time last year that an iOS had successfully tapped into the horror that the market seemed to be ignoring I was plenty skeptical. After all, how could something on a screen that small, where the greatest sound quality was going to be piped through headphones, possibly stack up? Was the enthusiasm and praise just because of the lack of quality horror games on the market? It wasn’t. Year Walk lived up to a year of expectations and went so much beyond it. It delivered all the scares and tension I could want, plus pulled off something that so few horror stories, game or not, can do. A good ending.
Year Walk (PC [Reviewed], iOS)
Release: March 6, 2014
High Tension, The Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth, Insidious, and even the more recent Outlast are all good horror titles that fell apart at the end. Regardless of how good they are in the rest of their duration, nothing can really change the sour taste that the ending leaves in your mouth. It’s a common failure of the genre and one that Year Walk completely avoids in both of its endings. If you want to see the true ending, you’ll have to dig a little deeper than the puzzles in the standard narrative.
On iOS, Year Walk utilized a second companion app that contained a small encyclopedia of the Swedish folklore contained within the game proper. It also had a journal that, once unlocked through divining one of the game’s puzzles, has another narrative that is peppered with clues to solving the final puzzle of the game and seeing the true ending. It was an interesting approach for the initial release, one that could be considered less intuitive in the PC version, as that content is simply another option within the game, it is no less satisfying to solve.
It’s this journal that makes an already unsettling and creepy narrative all the more grounded and impactful. It gives off a vibe very similar to Mark Danielewski’s House of Leaves. What makes it effective is that even without the true ending, Year Walk is still fantastic and has a great ending. It may not be the most intricate game ever made, but it tells its story well with barely any dialog and leaves enough clues for you to be able to think your way through its puzzles.
Even now, after playing through it myself, I’m still dumbfounded that the game’s home platform is a phone that could actually incite feelings of dread and provide so much more than simple jump scares. Simply being a horror focused experience with a decent, let alone fantastic, narrative end, puts it further than most horror titles. Whether it’s on Steam or iOS, Year Walk is a must play for horror fans and an easy recommendation for those not offput by the genre. Do yourself a favor and play Year Walk. Preferably alone in the dark with a good pair of headphones on.