Year Walk review

Sweden might have weird traditions… such as children dancing like frogs around a phallic symbol fertilizing Mother Nature to celebrate summer. But it used to be much weirder, much much weirder.

Simogo created the superb casual car endless runner Bumpy Road, and the highly rated unique rhythm platformer Beat Sneak Bandit. Their new endeavour Year Walk is as far from those titles as anything can ever be. Having spent hours in this surreal game I have to say that it is one of the most unnerving experiences I have had on a touch screen. And it is all about the experience, much like in Myst you get to draw much of the story in your own mind.

At times I feel as confused, as when I watched Twin Peaks in my youth. Women talking to logs, agents talking to secretaries we never get to see and strange lodges in the woods. Year Walk is highly influenced by myths, traditions and pagan antics found in Scandinavia. You wouldn’t know this though if you only play the game. This is the first time you have to rely on a companion app to get the background to the characters, symbols and relationships in the game. I spent an evening with only the game, and got seriously frustrated at the lack of information it gives. Reading the texts found in the companion app cleared up quite a lot of my confusion. It enabled me to start connecting the dots, and getting a story out of it all. This is a highly personal experience though, and I am certain that someone growing up in the US, or UK will have a completely different take on it. The team at Simogo specifically asked us not to give away any spoilers in our review of Year Walk. The fact is that I can’t, as my interpretations aren’t universal.

The gameplay is unique, as you walk in a layered world. You can scroll the scenes horizontally, and occasionally a small white arrow will indicate that you can go forwards, or backwards. This either brings you to another layer, a puzzle or an indoor location. Puzzles are hard to grasp, and even simple causality is off the table. Finding what to do in what order is a matter of trial, and error combined with the fragments of coherence you get. The idea is that solving the puzzles should be a collaborative effort on forums. I found this to be a brilliant, and highly engaging concept. Too bad that I am one of the few with the game this early, and can’t take advantage of how other players experience the game, and solve the puzzles.

The minimal presentation helps set a feeling of loneliness, mystery and wonder. Sounds are scarce, but once they appear I really listen. I hear, I follow, I walk. This is the first game I have encountered completely lacking user interface, pause menu and proper start screen. This further enhances the experience.

Year Walk isn’t for everyone, as it is far from a casual experience and it takes a lot of effort from the player to get into it. For those who manage to immerse themselves completely this is one of the greatest games ever on iOS. For those who don’t it is a waste of time, and money. With this in mind I really hope you will Walk the Year with me, and together we might be able to figure it out.

Final Rating

The hardest game ever to rate, as it can be everywhere from one to five stars depending on your experience.




TwitterFacebookGoogle BookmarksDiggStumbleUponShare
  • Miguel Borges

    Mr. Torbjorn Kamblad, your review saddens me. From within an App Store infested with actual money and time-waster free-to-play games, something absolutely brilliant, engaging and innovative shines through. And then you decide to write this review… it’s just sad.

    To anyone else reading this review, I recommend discarding its opinions and buying this game as it is one of the best gaming and storytelling experiences ever, not just on iOS.

  • Sirke

    What’s saddening is that this shows up on Metacritics. Quite frankly, this review tells me nothing about what the reviewer thinks of the game and instead gives me something everybody can figure out: “Well, if you like it, that’s a great game but guess what, if you don’t, well, it won’t be a great game for you…” Thanks genius.

  • Kevin, UK

    It tells you nothing about what the reviewer thinks of the game? Huh?

    ‘…one of the most unnerving experiences I’ve ever had on a touch screen.’

    ‘…seriously frustrated with the lack of information it gives.’

    ‘…I found this to be a brilliant and highly engaging concept.’

    ‘The minimal presentation helps set a feeling of loneliness, mystery and wonder’ the lack of user interface ‘further enhanced the experience.’

    You can’t tell what he thinks of the game from those quotes and the final score? Would you llike to spell it out phonetically?

    And sorry Miguel, just because you think it’s the best game ever doesn’t mean everyone else has to. 3.5/5 is a good score!

  • nigelwood

    In what universe is 3.5 a bad score? The review states that for some it will be the greatest game on the appstore, but that its not for everybody.

  • Miguel Borges

    I was at the same time sad and angry when I wrote that comment. I re-read the review just now. I’m still sad, but not as angry. I guess Torbjorn was minimally sensible about it, however it’s noticeable he clearly didn’t connect with the experience. That’s OK, it’s his take on the game.

    My bigger problem is still with the score. I’m sorry, but by the App Store’s “free-to-play time-and-money-wasters, quick-fix-addiction-relieve and use-and-throw-away” standards, 3.5 is NOT a good score!

    By the way, since we are talking about games not being for everyone, let’s take a look at the 5 star reviews section of Touchgen:

    - FPS’s never really were my type of game. Plus they are not really suited for a touch screen. And even though I enjoyed playing NOVA 3 and recognize it’s a pretty good effort (although extremely derivative, as usual coming from Gameloft) — but 5 stars, Nigel, seriously!?

    - Lili, 5 stars. This one was reviewed by Torbjorn. If you say 3.5 is a good score, does that mean that Lili is one of the best games ever?

    - Zombie Carnaval, 5 stars. Dead Space, 5 stars. I can’t even begin to understand…

    Anyway, I digress. My point is a 3.5 score, although you insist is good score (I hope I made myself clear on that), will probably steer away quite some people from experiencing this game. It’s a good thing, though, that the vast majority of reviewers think this game is absolutely outstanding.

    My bottom line is, if you call yourself a gamer, you owe it to yourself to play Year Walk. You may end up not connecting with it, but since when is that a valid reason not to take the plunge?

  • Kevin, UK

    Who said a 3.5 means it not worth taking the plunge? Did the review say that? No, it didn’t.

    Half the free to play, time and money time wasters you mention would end up getting 1-2.5 stars if we reviewed them, so relatively speaking, 3.5 is a good score.

    I’d suggest you accept that someone’s opinion is their opinion, just because you think it’s worth more doesn’t mean everyone has to agree with you. We’re only one site. Some people will play the game and agree with you, some won’t. Get over it.

  • nigelwood

    Scoring anything is not easy. I’d prefer we did away with scores completely, allowing you (the reader) to make up your own mind after reading a review fully. A review is a personal opinion, a tool for you to ingest and compare/contrast with other reviews to make an informed decision whether you should buy it. If you don’t agree with a score that’s perfectly fine, but you don’t need to get angry. I don’t understand why people choose to vent their anger instead of putting across their opinions in a calm and civil manner.

  • Miguel Borges

    I hope I didn’t come across in my comments as anything other than calm and civil, just because I mentioned that I’m personally angry/revolted. Did I?

    Anyway, I agree with the scoreless reviews point you made. I would love to see a major review site have the guts to do that.

  • Miguel Borges

    Yes it did:

    “For those who don’t [manage to immerse themselves] it is a waste of time, and money”.

    Get over what? This is my opinion and the review was Torbjorn’s opinion. This why you have a comment section under your articles, isn’t it?

    Apple featured Year Walk on a banner in the App Store featured section today, which was wonderful. Someone has to defend games like this, otherwise we developers will end up stop making them.

  • Kevin, UK

    Yeah, you’re right about the plunge, So fair enough. What I mean by get over it is you should get over the fact he didn’t like it as much as you believe he should. You can say ‘I disagree’ rather than advising people to ignore his review!

    Scoreless reviews? I’m up for that.

  • Blaise Stella

    Miguel is like.. So right man. So very right. Also, how has he been anything other than civil and reasonable?