Up until this week, I hadn't really played a game on my iPad that gave me the creeps. Games that made me laugh? Yeah. Games that challenged my brain? Absolutely. But nothing yet has made me feel as unsettled as Year Walk.
Out today, Year Walk takes its inspiration from the ancient Swedish tradition where people went out for long walks to look for signs of what would happen in the year ahead. This latest effort from the indie team behind Beat Sneak Bandit and Bumpy Road is a darker departure from their previous creations. Year Walk capture a singular feeling, that sensation of doing something ill-advised yet being compelled to continue, of being caught in a loop that disorients you the more you deeper you go.
Although they're simple—swiping to move sideways, push deeper or retreat backwards—the controls take some getting used to. That works with the creepy tone Year Walk tries to establish. The swipes feel like tentative, fumbly steps out into a darkened wood after starving yourself in a dark room. You'll lose track of where you came from, go back over your steps without realizing it and glower at the same sign and sights to figure out what kind of sense Year Walk is trying to make.
And you're not going to have much idea going in unless you also download the free Year Walk Companion app. It's a mix of encyclopedia and bestiary, filled with information about the Year Walk tradition and otherworldly entities from Scandinavian folklore. It's a fascinating read on its own but the combination of the two downloads really makes it feel like you've traveled back in time. You encounter all sorts of ominous signs and weird sigils that drive you to encounters with creatures that shouldn't exist. Year Walk is an odd offshoot of the point-and-click adventure genre puzzle adventure genre. It doesn't give you a clear motivation, like fame, fortune or love but you keep playing to make sense of the game itself. What it feels like is you're flipping through the pages of someone else's addled consciousness. It's one of most affecting trips your iPad can take you on. Don't let anyone spoil it for you. Play it yourself.